Atorvastatin compared with simvastatin in patients with severe LDL hypercholesterolaemia treated by regular LDL apheresis


Dr Klaus G. Parhofer MD, Medical Department II, Klinikum Grosshadern, Marchioninistr. 15, 81377 Munich, Germany (fax: +49 89 7095–8879; e-mail: parhofer@


Objectives. Atorvastatin is a new potent HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor. We evaluated whether patients with coronary heart disease and severe hypercholesterolaemia showing insufficient LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol reduction despite combined therapy with simvastatin and regular LDL apheresis will benefit from atorvastatin therapy.

Setting. Tertiary care centre, university hospital.

Methods. In 21 patients treated by LDL apheresis, concomitant simvastatin therapy (40 mg day−1) was replaced by atorvastatin (40 mg day−1) and increased to 60 and 80 mg day−1 (each for 3 months) if no side-effects were reported and NCEP treatment goals were not reached.

Results. In 20 of 21 patients (95%), atorvastatin resulted in significant reduction of LDL cholesterol compared with simvastatin (by 10%, additional 8% and additional 1%, with 40, 60 and 80 mg day−1, respectively). In four patients, NCEP treatment goals were reached (in three by atorvastatin alone, and in one by atorvastatin and apheresis). Patients with little reduction in LDL cholesterol to 40 mg day−1 atorvastatin benefited most by increasing the dose to 60 mg day−1 (additional 13% reduction), whilst those responding to atorvastatin 40 mg day−1 benefited less (additional 1.9% reduction). During atorvastatin therapy, significantly less plasma had to be treated during apheresis resulting in shorter apheresis time. Eight patients (38%) reported side-effects, resulting in discontinuation of atorvastatin in three (14%) and dose reduction in five patients (24%), whilst no elevation of biochemical markers was observed.

Conclusion. Concomitant atorvastatin therapy is superior to simvastatin therapy in patients with severe hypercholesterolaemia treated with regular LDL apheresis, but is associated with a high rate of subjective side-effects.