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Clin Ther. 2001 Jun;23(6):851-7.

Effects of low doses of simvastatin and atorvastatin on high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in patients with hypercholesterolemia.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, University of Milan, Maggiore Hospital IRCCS, Italy.



Simvastatin 40 to 80 mg/d has been found to increase high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels significantly more than atorvastatin at equipotent doses (ie, 20-80 mg/d). Data on the effects of lower doses of the 2 drugs on HDL-C levels are conflicting.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of simvastatin 20 mg/d and atorvastatin 10 mg/d on HDL-C levels in patients with hypercholesterolemia.


Patients with primary hypercholesterolemia (total cholesterol [TC] >250 mg/dL) who were not taking any lipid-lowering agents and who were following a low-fat diet were randomized to receive 1 of 2 treatments: simvastatin 20 mg/d or atorvastatin 10 mg/d. Serum TC, triglycerides (TG), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), and HDL-C levels were measured using standard methods after 2 months of therapy. In a secondary analysis, lipids and lipoprotein cholesterol were measured after 1 year in patients who continued treatment.


Of the 240 patients enrolled (108 men and 132 women; age range, 23-77 years, mean [SEM] 56.7 [0.69]), 235 completed the study. After 2 months of therapy, TC, LDL-C, and serum TG levels decreased significantly versus baseline in both groups (P < 0.001), with no significant differences between treatment groups. HDL-C levels increased by 9.0% (P < 0.001 vs baseline) in the simvastatin group and by 4.3% (P < 0.02) in the atorvastatin group. The difference between the 2 groups in the percentage increase in HDL-C was statistically significant (P < 0.05). In 113 patients who continued treatment, HDL-C levels at 1 year were still significantly higher than baseline levels in the simvastatin group (6.3%, P = 0.034), but not in the atorvastatin group (2.8%, P = 0.587).


The findings from this study suggest that the HDL-C-increasing effect of simvastatin 20 mg is significantly greater than that of atorvastatin 10 mg. Since increasing HDL-C levels is thought to lower the risk for atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease, these results warrant further investigation.

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