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Pharmacotherapy. 2006 Sep;26(9):1288-96.

Statin withdrawal: clinical implications and molecular mechanisms.

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Department of Pharmaceutical and Administrative Sciences, College of Pharmacy, Health Professions Division, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33328, USA.


Retrospective analyses of data from the Platelet Receptor Inhibition in Ischemic Syndrome Management (PRISM), the National Registry of Myocardial Infarction 4, and the Global Registry of Acute Coronary Events (GRACE) trials revealed that the benefits of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors (statins) on acute coronary outcomes are rapidly lost and outcomes worsened if statins are discontinued during a patient's hospitalization for an acute coronary syndrome. Withdrawal of statin therapy in the first 24 hours of hospitalization for non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction increased the hospital morbidity and mortality rate versus continued therapy (11.9% vs 5.7%, p<0.01). Data from the Treating New Targets (TNT) study, however, suggested that short-term discontinuation of statin therapy in patients with stable cardiac conditions may not substantially increase the risk of acute coronary syndromes. In patients with acute coronary syndromes who discontinue statins, the rapid increase in risk of an event may result not only from the lost benefits from the therapy, but also from rebound inhibition of vascular protective substances and activation of vascular deleterious substances. Statins inhibit cholesterol synthesis in vascular cells. By reducing levels of isoprenoid intermediates, statins increase the production of nitric oxide and downregulate angiotensin II AT(1) receptors, endothelin-1, vascular inflammatory adhesion molecules, and inflammatory cytokines. These benefits are rapidly lost and often transiently reversed when statins are acutely discontinued. Acute removal of pleiotropic effects and rebound vascular dysfunction may be more important in an acute coronary event, where inflammation promotes rupture of atherosclerotic plaques and inflammatory and prothrombosis markers are present in high concentration, than in stable chronic vascular disease. In the absence of data from randomized controlled trials, current information suggests that statin therapy should be continued, and possibly boosted, during hospitalization for an acute coronary syndrome. Because statins are discontinued during the early hospitalization of many patients, practitioners must ensure that statins are not omitted, unless contraindicated, from the treatment of patients with acute coronary syndromes.

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