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Am J Med. 1991 Jul 31;91(1B):25S-30S.

Expanded clinical evaluation of lovastatin (EXCEL) study results: IV. Additional perspectives on the tolerability of lovastatin.

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Lipid and Arteriosclerosis Prevention Clinic, University of Kansas, Kansas City.


This randomized, double-blind, multicenter, diet-and-placebo-controlled study was designed to clarify the dose-response relationship of lovastatin therapy to lipid-modifying efficacy and drug-related adverse events. Exclusion criteria were minimized so that study patients were representative of the majority of patients with moderate hypercholesterolemia seen in medical practice. After 6 weeks on the American Heart Association Step 1 Diet, a total of 8,245 patients were randomly assigned to 48 weeks of treatment with diet and placebo or lovastatin at dosages of 20 or 40 mg once a day or 20 or 40 mg twice a day. All adverse events were monitored, with particular attention to evaluation of liver and muscle. Liver transaminase elevations suggestive of possible hepatotoxicity, defined as successive elevations in either aspartate transaminase or alanine aminotransferase greater than 3 times the upper limit of normal, occurred in equal numbers of placebo and lovastatin 20 mg/day treated patients (0.1%). The frequencies were higher in lovastatin 40 mg/day and 80 mg/day patient groups (0.9 and 1.5%, respectively). No patient was diagnosed as having clinically symptomatic hepatic dysfunction. Creatinine kinase (CK) elevations above the upper limit of normal occurred frequently in placebo- (29%), as well as lovastatin-treated patients (29-35%), and muscle symptoms were reported with similar frequency in all groups (7-9%). The combination of muscle symptoms with marked CK elevations (greater than 10 times the upper limit of normal) was seen in only five patients: one in a 40 mg/day dose group and four in the 80 mg/day dose group. No patient developed rhabdomyolysis. The incidence of clinical and laboratory adverse events requiring discontinuation was 6% for the placebo group and from 7% (20 mg/day) to 9% (80 mg/day) for lovastatin treatment groups. No new types of adverse experiences related to lovastatin treatment were reported. Lovastatin, as an adjunct to diet for the reduction of elevated LDL cholesterol, was generally very well tolerated.

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