CHICAGO – A new American College of Cardiology expert consensus decision pathway for the use of nonstatin therapies to lower cholesterol in high-risk patients addresses situations not covered by an evidence-based 2013 guideline on managing atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk.
Like the 2013 guideline (the 2013 American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Guideline on the Treatment of Blood Cholesterol to Reduce Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Adults), the new guidance emphasizes the importance of a healthy lifestyle, but also addresses the use of two monoclonal antibodies–proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexon 9 (PCSK9) inhibitors–approved for certain patient groups since the 2013 guideline was released, as well as other nonstatin therapies, including ezetimibe and bile acid sequestrants.
“At the time [the 2013 guideline was published] the only really good outcomes data ... were for statin medication and there were no data from clinical trials that showed additional benefit of medications over and above being on the maximally tolerated dose of a statin,” according to Dr. Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, a professor at Northwestern University, Chicago and chair of the writing committee for the new guidance. “However, since 2013, a number of trials have been published that actually move the field forward in our understanding of which patients might benefit from adding non statin therapy on top of effective statin therapy.”
The guidance was developed to address gaps in care until the guidelines can be updated, which will likely take a few years.
Based on findings from recent studies, including the IMPROVE IT trial, which examined ezetimibe as statin add-on therapy after acute coronary syndromes, the HPS2-THRIVE study, which examined use of niacin in high-risk patients, and short-term outcomes studies of PCSK9 inhibitors, which have been shown to dramatically reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels beyond the lowering provided by statin therapy, the committee developed algorithms for the four main high-risk statin benefit patient groups:
•Adults aged 21 years and older with clinical atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), on statin for secondary prevention.
•Adults aged 21 years and older with LDL-C greater than or equal to 190 mg/dL not due to secondary modifiable causes, on statin for primary prevention.
•Adults aged 40-75 years without ASCVD but with diabetes and LDL-C of 70-189 mg/dL, on statin for primary prevention.
•Adults aged 40-75 years without clinical ASCVD or diabetes, with LDL-C of 70-189 mg/dL and an estimated 10-year risk for ASCVD of at least 7.5%, on statin for primary prevention.
The guidance suggests a number of steps to take with patients who fail to achieve treatment goals (such as addressing treatment adherence, intensifying lifestyle modifications, using a high-intensity stain, and evaluating for statin intolerance), and lists “clinician-patient discussion factors” to consider for each of a number of patient scenarios (including the potential benefits and risks associated with nonstatin therapies, as well as patient preferences).
Included for each of the patient scenarios is an algorithm for which nonstatin therapies to use in which order, building on the “rock-solid confidence” that for the four statin benefit groups, statins remain the starting point, Dr. Lloyd-Jones said. He discussed the guidance in a video interview.
In general, ezetimibe for those patients who are not achieving the types of reduction in LDL or the amount of risk reduction desired, “should probably be the first choice,” he said.
Bile acid sequestrants can be considered in those who are ezetimibe intolerant and who have triglycerides less than 300 mg/dL.
PCSK9 inhibitors are suggested for consideration only in very high-risk patients with ASCVD or with the familial hypercholesterolemia phenotype who are still not achieving the goal (ideally, a 50% reduction in LDL cholesterol), he said.
The committee did not recommend use of niacin, stating that there is no clear indication for the routine use of niacin preparations as additional nonstatin therapies due to an unfavorable risk-benefit profile.
Additionally, PCSK9 inhibitors are not recommended in any primary prevention scenarios, he noted.
Dr. Neil J. Stone, chair of the 2013 guideline writing committee, said the new guidance provides a useful tool for clinicians, extending, in a practical way, the current guideline as the field awaits the long-term outcomes data for PCSK9 inhibitors.
Despite some backlash in the wake of the 2013 guideline, which marked a move away from specific cholesterol treatment targets to a cardiovascular disease risk-based approach, the cardiovascular risk calculation formula introduced in that guideline has been shown to be useful and accurate, said Dr. Stone, also of Northwestern University.
“[The new guidance] is simply an amplification and extension of the guideline,” he said, adding that “it’s about a risk discussion, not automatic treatment.”