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Hepatology. 1999 Jul;30(1):14-20.

The pravastatin-induced decrease of biliary cholesterol secretion is not directly related to an inhibition of cholesterol synthesis in humans.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine I, Division of Gastroenterology, Medical University of Luebeck, Luebeck, Germany.


3-Hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitors have been reported to suppress biliary cholesterol secretion and saturation. It remains unproven whether this is mediated by inhibition of cholesterol synthesis. Therefore, the effect of a long-term administration of pravastatin on cholesterogenesis and on biliary lipid secretion was investigated in seven healthy volunteers. Placebo or 40 mg of pravastatin were taken daily at bedtime for 5 weeks using a double-blind crossover design. During the last week, 12 hours after the last drug intake 0.04 mmol [1-13C]acetate/kg. h and 0.5 g polyethylene glycol 4,000/h were infused intraduodenally for 15 hours. Plasma and duodenal bile samples were collected hourly. Thereafter, the decay of [13C]labeled plasma cholesterol was measured during the following 3 days. The fractional and absolute syntheses of plasma and biliary cholesterol were determined by gas chromatography mass spectrometry using mass isotopomer distribution analysis. At the end of the pravastatin period plasma total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol had decreased by 20% and 24%, respectively. Similarly, pravastatin suppressed biliary secretion rates of cholesterol, total bile acids and phospholipids (P <.05) by 46%, 36%, and 51%. As a consequence, cholesterol saturation index remained unchanged. However, fractional syntheses of cholesterol were comparable (P >.05) on placebo compared with pravastatin with 3.1% versus 4.0% in plasma and 4.3% versus 5.2% in bile after 15 hours, respectively. The mean absolute synthesis rates amounted to 0.3 mg/kg/h on placebo versus 0.4 on pravastatin (P >. 05). In conclusion, the pravastatin-induced reduction of biliary cholesterol secretion is not directly related to an inhibition of cholesterol synthesis.

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