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Am J Cardiol. 1995 Sep 28;76(9):78C-85C.

The influence of pretreatment low density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations on the effect of hypocholesterolemic therapy on coronary atherosclerosis in angiographic trials. Harvard Atherosclerosis Reversibility Project Research Group.

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Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Angiographic trials of coronary atherosclerosis treatment have demonstrated that lowering low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol concentrations improves coronary artery stenosis. Most patients in previous trials have had at least mildly elevated LDL. Recently, however, the Harvard Atherosclerosis Reversibility Project (HARP) did not find such benefit in patients with lower baseline LDL levels compared with previous trials. We reviewed and analyzed all cholesterol-lowering trials that used angiographic endpoints. Unifactorial trials of hypocholesterolemic dietary or drug therapy demonstrated that the higher the baseline LDL, the greater the improvement in quantitatively determined stenosis in the treatment group compared with the controls (r = .83). Considering the change in stenosis in the treatment group alone, regression was more common in trials in which baseline mean LDL was > 170 mg/dl (> 4.4 mmol/liter), whereas progression occurred when baseline mean LDL was < 170 mg/dl (< 4.4 mmol/liter). HARP had the lowest baseline LDL (137 mg/dl [3.54 mmol/liter]), and showed no tendency for improvement in lesions. In contrast to the influence of baseline LDL levels, neither a low LDL level achieved on treatment nor a large percentage reduction in LDL was related to improvement in lesions. Sample size differences between HARP and the other trials are unlikely to be a major explanatory factor, since trials of comparable sample size to HARP, but with higher initial LDL, demonstrated favorable results. We conclude that coronary lesions that develop in the context of average LDL levels show less angiographic improvement in response to substantial LDL reduction than lesions in hypercholesterolemic patients.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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