A new class of drugs, which inhibit de novo cholesterol biosynthesis, significantly reduces the blood cholesterol concentrations in hypercholesterolemic patients. Four separate inhibitors have lowered plasma total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels in humans by 20% to 40%: mevastatin (Compactin), lovastatin (mevinolin), pravastatin (CS-514, Eptastatin, and SQ 31 000), and simvastatin (Synvinolin, MK-733). In addition to lowering total and LDL cholesterol concentrations, the plasma concentration of the potentially atherogenic B apolipoprotein is also reduced by 20% to 40%. The reduction in the levels of circulating atherogenic lipoprotein particles occurs as a result of decreased synthesis and enhanced removal of LDLs by the LDL receptor pathway in hepatocytes. Moreover, the levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which are inversely related to atherosclerosis, increase in concentration with treatment by these drugs. If the short-term safety of these drugs extends to ongoing long-term studies and if cardiovascular morbidity and mortality are affected by their use, this class of hypolipidemic agent will markedly facilitate the effective treatment of hypercholesterolemia.
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