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Curr Opin Lipidol. 1999 Dec;10(6):561-74.

Fibrates, dyslipoproteinaemia and cardiovascular disease.

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  • 1University Department of Medicine, University of Western Australia, Royal Perth Hospital, Australia.


Recent epidemiological data have reaffirmed that elevated plasma triglyceride and low HDL-cholesterol levels are important risk factors for atherosclerotic vascular disease. The rationale for the clinical use of fibric acid derivatives, which are designed to correct this metabolic nexus, is now on firmer ground. The mechanism of action of fibrates on lipoprotein metabolism has recently been elucidated at the molecular level and involves the activation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-alpha 1 in the liver, with the net effect of improving the plasma transport rates of several lipoproteins. Other potential anti-atherothrombotic effects include the inhibition of coagulation and enhancement of fibrinolysis, as well as the inhibition of inflammatory mediators involved in atherogenesis. These consequences probably underpin the favourable effects of fibrates seen in recent angiographic and clinical trials. Two important clinical trials on the effect of gemfibrozil (Veterans Administration-HDL-Cholesterol Intervention Trial) and bezafibrate (Bezafibrate Infarction Prevention Study) have recently been completed in subjects with elevated triglyceride, low HDL and normal or near-normal LDL-cholesterol levels. The results testify to the efficacy of these agents in decreasing the incidence of cardiovascular events, particularly in patients with multiple risk factors and plasma triglyceride levels of over 2.2 mmol/l. The findings of these trials are compared with the statin-based Air Force/Texas Coronary Atherosclerosis Prevention Study, with a recommendation that future studies in appropriately selected patients should examine the synergistic effect of the fibrate/statin combination. The absolute risk reduction in the incidence of coronary events in the Veterans Administration-HDL-Cholesterol Intervention Trial compares favourably with the statin trials. The therapeutic aspects of the efficacy and safety of fibrates are reviewed. Besides primary mixed hyperlipidaemias, particular indications for the clinical use of fibrates include type 2 diabetes, the metabolic syndrome and renal insufficiency. The St Mary's, Ealing, Northwick Park Diabetes Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Study has suggested that fibrates may decrease the incidence of coronary events in type 2 diabetes, but this hypothesis will be more extensively tested in the Diabetes Atherosclerosis Intervention Study, Fenofibrate in Event Lowering in Diabetes Study and Lipids in Diabetes Study projects. Although significant new knowledge has accrued over the past few years concerning the fundamental and clinical aspects of fibrates, the success of these agents in clinical practice depends on the availability of methods for assessing cardiovascular risk as well as on treatment guidelines, which as presently designed and recommended may be inaccurate and suboptimal.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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