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Control Clin Trials. 1992 Dec;13(6):495-506.

Pravastatin, lipids, and atherosclerosis in the carotid arteries: design features of a clinical trial with carotid atherosclerosis outcome.

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Department of Medicine, Bowman Gray School of Medicine, Winston Salem, NC 27103.


The Pravastatin, Lipids, and Atherosclerosis in the Carotids trial (PLAC-II) was initiated in 1987 and is the first double-masked randomized clinical trial with progression of early extracranial carotid atherosclerosis as an outcome variable. The trial will compare a lipid-lowering agent (pravastatin, a hydroxymethylglutaryl CoA reductase inhibitor) with placebo for ability to retard the rate of progression of extracranial carotid atherosclerosis over 3 years. Inclusion criteria consisted of prevalent coronary artery disease, moderately elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (between the 60th and 90th percentiles), and the presence of at least one extracranial carotid artery atherosclerotic plaque that had an intimal-medial thickness (IMT) > or = 1.3 mm as visualized by B-mode ultrasound. Of approximately 650 patients who qualified on the basis of coronary disease and elevated LDL cholesterol, 55% were excluded because of B-mode criteria. One hundred and fifty-one males and females 50-75 years of age were recruited. Random allocation produced placebo-treated and test-treated groups that were similar for baseline historical data, physical findings, laboratory tests, lipid values, and B-mode characteristics. Baseline concentrations of plasma total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol were 234, 166, and 41 mg/dl, respectively. Baseline plasma concentration of triglyceride was 170 mg/dl. Despite selection of participants whose arteries, overall, were suitable for the trial, individual segments in some participants could not be visualized. Ninety-seven percent of the individual carotid artery segments were visualized in the common carotid, 88% in the bifurcation, and 63% in the internal carotid artery. Far walls were slightly more often visualized than near walls, and nonvisualization was most common for the near wall of the internal carotid. Nonvisualized segments were comparable between both treatment groups. The distribution of arterial walls with qualifying plaque of > or = 1.3 mm IMT was similar for the two groups, and the two groups were also comparable for the primary outcome determinant, mean maximum IMT (mean of maximum of all visualizable sites, 1.32 mm for each treatment group). There are special problems related to recruitment and evaluation of patients for a clinical trial such as this, but the atherosclerosis outcome measurement markedly enhances power and compensates for difficulty in recruitment.

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