Conference Coverage

Treating LDL to below 70 reduces recurrent stroke



– Treating patients to a lower LDL target after an ischemic stroke of atherosclerotic origin resulted in fewer recurrent strokes or major cardiovascular events, compared with a higher LDL goal, even though the international trial was stopped early because of lack of funding.

Dr. Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, Chairman, Department of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago

Dr. Donald M. Lloyd-Jones

“In the Treat Stroke to Target [TST] trial we showed that the group of patients with an atherosclerotic stroke achieving an LDL cholesterol of less than 70 mg/dL had 22% less recurrent ischemic stroke or other major vascular events than the group achieving a LDL cholesterol between 90 and 110 mg/dL,” lead author Pierre Amarenco, MD, chairman of the department of neurology and the stroke center at Bichat Hospital in Paris, said in an interview.

“We avoided more than one in recurrence in five,” he added.

The findings of the investigator-initiated trial were reported during a late-breaking research session at the American Heart Association scientific sessions and simultaneously published online Nov. 18 in the New England Journal of Medicine (doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1910355).

Discussant Mitchell S.V. Elkind, MD, president-elect of the American Heart Association, called the TST findings “practice confirming” of a strategy many cardiologists already follow for stroke patients.

“The TST study is only the second trial that was done in neurology for stroke prevention using statins and lipid-lowering therapy, and that’s what makes it a hopeful and real advance,” he said in an interview.

To achieve the LDL-lowering goal, two-thirds of patients received a high-dose statin therapy while the remainder received both high-dose statin and ezetimibe (Zetia, Merck). There were no significant increases in intracranial hemorrhage observed between lower- and higher-target groups.

“Now guidelines should move to recommending a target LDL cholesterol of less than 70 mg/dL in all patients with a proven ischemic stroke of atherosclerotic origin,” said Dr. Amarenco, who is also a professor of neurology at Denis Diderot Paris University.

Rare lipid study following stroke

American Heart Association/American Stroke Association guidelines recommend intense statin therapy after an atherothrombotic stroke “but no target level is given to the practitioners,” Dr. Amarenco said. “In reality, most patients receive a reduced dose of statin.”

For example, despite 70% of patients receiving a statin, the average LDL cholesterol level was 92 mg/dL in a real-world registry.

The TST trial is the first major study to evaluate treating to target LDL levels in the ischemic stroke population since the SPARCL trial in 2006. SPARCL was the first randomized, controlled clinical trial to evaluate whether daily statin therapy could reduce the risk of stroke in patients who had suffered a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).

SPARCL demonstrated a 16% risk reduction with atorvastatin 80 mg daily versus placebo, and further risk reduction of 33% among those with carotid stenosis, over 5 years. There was some concern about safety for a time; post-hoc analysis showed what appeared to be an increased risk for intracranial hemorrhage with statin treatment. Subsequent analyses seemed to suggest the finding may have been a chance one, however.

For the TST study, Dr. Amarenco and colleagues enrolled participants between March 2010 and December 2018 at one of 61 centers in France. In 2015, the study expanded to include 16 sites in South Korea.

Investigators evaluated participants after an ischemic stroke or a TIA with evidence of atherosclerosis. Blood pressure, smoking cessation, and diabetes were well controlled, he said.

Dr. Amarenco and colleagues randomly assigned 1,430 participants to the low–LDL cholesterol target group, less than 70 mg/dL, and another 1,430 to a high-LDL group with a target of 100 mg/dL.

Assessments were every 6 months and up to 1 year after the last patient joined the study.

Treatment with any available statin on the market was allowed. Ezetimibe could be added on top of statin therapy as necessary. A total of 55% were statin naive at study entry.


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