Skip to Main Content



A 42-year-old man with moderately severe coronary artery disease has a body mass index (BMI) of 29, increased abdominal girth, and hypertension that is well controlled. In addition to medicine for hypertension, he is taking 40 mg atorvastatin. Current lipid panel (mg/dL): cholesterol 184, triglycerides 200, LDL-C 110, HDL-C 34, non–HDL-C 150. Lipoprotein(a) (Lp[a]) is twice normal. Fasting glucose is 102 mg/dL, HbA1C is 6%, and fasting insulin is 38 μU/mL. Liver enzymes are normal. Creatine kinase level is mildly elevated. The patient is referred for help with management of his dyslipidemia. You advise dietary measures, exercise, and weight loss. Which additional drugs would help him achieve his lipoprotein treatment goals: LDL-C 50–60 mg/dL; triglycerides < 120 mg/dL; HDL-C > 45 mg/dL; and reduced level of Lp(a)? Would this patient also benefit from a drug to manage insulin resistance? If so, which drug?

Plasma lipids are transported in complexes called lipoproteins. Metabolic disorders that involve elevations in any lipoprotein species are termed hyperlipoproteinemias or hyperlipidemias. Hyperlipemia denotes increased levels of triglycerides.

The two major clinical sequelae of hyperlipidemias are acute pancreatitis and atherosclerosis. The former occurs in patients with marked hyperlipemia. Control of triglycerides can prevent recurrent attacks of this life-threatening disease.

Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of death for both genders in the USA and other Western countries. Lipoproteins that contain apolipoprotein (apo) B-100 convey lipids into the artery wall. These are low-density (LDL), intermediate-density (IDL), very-low-density (VLDL), and lipoprotein(a) (Lp[a]). Remnant lipoproteins formed during the catabolism of chylomicrons that contain the B-48 protein (apo B-48) can also enter the artery wall, contributing to atherosclerosis.

Cellular components in atherosclerotic plaques include foam cells, which are transformed macrophages, and smooth muscle cells filled with cholesteryl esters. These cellular alterations result from endocytosis of modified lipoproteins via at least four species of scavenger receptors. Chemical modification of lipoproteins by free radicals creates ligands for these receptors. The atheroma grows with the accumulation of foam cells, collagen, fibrin, and frequently calcium. Whereas such lesions can slowly occlude coronary vessels, clinical symptoms are more frequently precipitated by rupture of unstable atheromatous plaques, leading to activation of platelets and formation of occlusive thrombi.

Although treatment of hyperlipidemia can cause slow physical regression of plaques, the well-documented reduction in acute coronary events that follows vigorous lipid-lowering treatment is attributable chiefly to mitigation of the inflammatory activity of macrophages and is evident within 2–3 months after starting therapy.

High-density lipoproteins (HDL) exert several antiatherogenic effects. They participate in retrieval of cholesterol from the artery wall and inhibit the oxidation of atherogenic lipoproteins. Low levels of HDL (hypoalphalipoproteinemia) are an independent risk factor for atherosclerotic disease and thus are a potential target for intervention.

Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor for coronary disease. It is associated with reduced levels of HDL, impairment of ...

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.