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Am J Cardiol. 1988 Nov 11;62(15):28J-34J.

Efficacy and long-term adverse effect pattern of lovastatin.

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Department of Clinical Research, Merck Sharp & Dohme Research Laboratories, Rahway, New Jersey 07065.


The efficacy of lovastatin, a potent inhibitor of HMG CoA reductase, has been established by numerous studies. At doses of 40 mg administered twice daily, lovastatin produces a mean reduction in total plasma cholesterol of 33%, attributable to a reduction in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol of 41%. The drug also produces a mean increase in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol of 9%, and a reduction in the high- and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol ratio of 44%. The serious reported adverse effects of lovastatin are myopathy (0.5%) and asymptomatic but marked and persistent increases in transaminases (1.9%). Both are reversible when therapy is discontinued. Myopathy has occurred mainly in patients with complicated histories who were receiving concomitant therapy with immunosuppressive drugs, gemfibrozil or niacin. In an ongoing long-term safety study, 744 patients have received lovastatin for an average duration of 2.5 years up to March 1988. Fifteen patients (2.0%) have been withdrawn because of drug-attributable adverse events: raised transaminases (9), skin rash (2), gastrointestinal symptoms (2), myopathy (1) and insomnia (1). No effect of the drug on the human lens has been observed up to the date mentioned above. Lovastatin has been available in the United States since September 1987. By March 1988, the drug had been prescribed for approximately 250,000 patients. This clinical experience has confirmed the tolerability observed in clinical trials. The good adverse-effect profile of lovastatin is thus now supported both by a substantial body of data in patients treated for over 2 years in clinical trials, and by experience in clinical use with a large number of patients since the drug has been available for prescription.

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