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Hepatology. 1998 Mar;27(3):649-55.

Cholesterol metabolism and serum and biliary noncholesterol sterols in gallstone patients during simvastatin and ursodeoxycholic acid treatments.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Finland.


Effects of long-term high-dose ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) and simvastatin treatments on cholesterol metabolism and biliary lipid compositions were compared in patients with cholesterol gallstones. Absorption and synthesis of cholesterol, serum and biliary noncholesterol sterols and lipids were determined in 14 patients randomized to UDCA (23-25 mg/kg/d) or simvastatin (40 mg/d) for 1 year. Simvastatin reduced serum low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by 55%, and UDCA, by 9%. Cholesterol absorption was decreased (35%) by UDCA, but nonsignificantly increased by simvastatin (P < .05 for difference of changes caused by the two drugs). Whole-body synthesis and biliary output of cholesterol were both significantly decreased only by UDCA. In addition, UDCA inconsistently increased the proportions of serum and biliary precursor sterols of cholesterol, known to reflect cholesterol synthesis, but did not affect their biliary secretions. Simvastatin, however, dramatically reduced serum and also biliary cholesterol precursor sterol proportions and their biliary secretions and increased proportions of serum and biliary plant sterols and cholestanol, known to reflect cholesterol absorption, but had no effect on their biliary secretion. Only UDCA significantly decreased the molar percentage of cholesterol, the lithogenic index, and the cholesterol/phospholipid (CH/ PL) ratio in bile, whereas both treatments inconsistently decreased the vesicular CH/PL ratio (P < .07 in both groups). It is concluded that both drugs decreased serum cholesterol and inhibited cholesterol synthesis, but had a differing influence on precursor sterols and the absorption of cholesterol. UDCA had more beneficial effects than simvastatin on the antilithogenic properties of bile.

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