Plaque imaging to refine indications for emerging lipid-lowering drugs.
Alkhalil M., Chai JT., Choudhury RP.
Statins have been effective in reducing adverse cardiovascular events. Their benefits have been proportional to the level of plasma LDL-cholesterol reduction and seem to extend to patients with 'normal' levels of cholesterol at outset. Statins are also inexpensive and have a favourable side-effect profile. As a result, they are used widely (almost indiscriminately) in patients with atherosclerotic vascular disease, and in those at risk of disease. Next generation lipid-modifying drugs seem unlikely to offer the same simplicity of application. The recent trials of new classes of lipid modifying drugs underline the need for a risk stratification tool which is not based on patients' category of diagnosis (for example, post-myocardial infarction) but based on the characterization of disease in that individual patient. Mechanistic staging, a process that matches the target of the drug action with an identifiable disease characteristic, may offer an opportunity to achieve more precise intervention. The upshots of this targeted approach will be greater efficacy, requiring smaller clinical trials to demonstrate effectiveness; a reduced number needed to treat to yield benefits and more cost-effective prescribing. This will be important, as purchasers require ever more rigorous demonstration of both efficacy and cost-effectiveness. In this context, we will discuss available pharmacological strategies of lipid reduction in anti-atherosclerotic treatment and how plaque imaging techniques may provide an ideal method in stratifying patients for new lipid-modifying drugs.