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Circulation. 1994 Oct;90(4):1679-87.

Effect of lovastatin on early carotid atherosclerosis and cardiovascular events. Asymptomatic Carotid Artery Progression Study (ACAPS) Research Group.

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  • 1Department of Public Health Sciences, Bowman Gray School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC 27157-1063.



HMG CoA reductase inhibitors (or statins), a new class of lipid-lowering compounds, have raised expectations for more widespread use than that of the older lipid-lowering drugs. Not only are they more effective in lowering LDL cholesterol, but they are better tolerated as well. No data exist concerning the effect of statins on early carotid atherosclerosis and clinical events in men and women who have moderately elevated LDL cholesterol levels but are free of symptomatic cardiovascular disease.


Lovastatin (20 to 40 mg/d) or its placebo was evaluated in a double-blind, randomized clinical trial with factorial design along with warfarin (1 mg/d) or its placebo. This report is limited to the lovastatin component of the trial. Daily aspirin (81 mg/d) was recommended for everyone. Enrollment included 919 asymptomatic men and women, 40 to 79 years old, with early carotid atherosclerosis as defined by B-mode ultrasonography and LDL cholesterol between the 60th and 90th percentiles. The 3-year change in mean maximum intimal-medial thickness (IMT) in 12 walls of the carotid arteries was the primary outcome; change in single maximum IMT and incidence of major cardiovascular events were secondary outcomes. LDL cholesterol fell 28%, from 156.6 mg/dL at baseline to 113.1 mg/dL at 6 months (P < .0001), in the lovastatin groups and was largely unchanged in the lovastatin-placebo groups. Among participants not on warfarin, regression of the mean maximum IMT was seen after 12 months in the lovastatin group compared with the placebo group; the 3-year difference was statistically significant (P = .001). A larger favorable effect of lovastatin was observed for the change in single maximum IMT but was not statistically significant (P = .12). Five lovastatin-treated participants suffered major cardiovascular events--coronary heart disease mortality, nonfatal myocardial infarction, or stroke--versus 14 in the lovastatin-placebo groups (P = .04). One lovastatin-treated participant died, compared with eight on lovastatin-placebo (P = .02).


In men and women with moderately elevated LDL cholesterol, lovastatin reverses progression of IMT in the carotid arteries and appears to reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events and mortality. Results from ongoing large-scale clinical trials may further establish the clinical benefit of statins.

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