Aims The predominance of small dense low-density lipoproteins (sdLDLs) has been associated with increased cardiovascular risk. The effect of ezetimibe on LDL subfraction distribution has not been fully elucidated. This study assessed by gradient gel electrophoresis the effects of ezetimibe alone, simvastatin alone, and their combination on sdLDL subfraction distribution.
Methods and results A single-centre, randomized, parallel three-group open-label study was performed in 72 healthy men with a baseline LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C) concentration of 111 ± 30 mg/dL (2.9 ± 0.8 mmol/L). They were treated with ezetimibe (10 mg/day, n = 24), simvastatin (40 mg/day, n = 24), or their combination (n = 24) for 14 days. Blood was drawn before and after the treatment period. Generalized estimating equations were used to assess the influence of drug therapy on LDL subfraction distribution, controlling for within-subject patterns (clustering). We adjusted for age, body mass index, and baseline concentrations of LDL-C and triglycerides. Ezetimibe alone changed LDL subfraction distribution towards a more atherogenic profile by significantly increasing sdLDL subfractions (LDL-IVA +14.2%, P = 0.0216 and LDL-IVB +16.7%, P = 0.039; fully adjusted Wald χ2 test). In contrast, simvastatin alone significantly decreased the LDL-IVB subfraction (−16.7%, P = 0.002). This effect was offset when simvastatin was combined with ezetimibe (LDL-IVB +14.3%, P = 0.44). All three treatments decreased the large, more buoyant LDL-I subfraction, the effects of ezetimibe being the most pronounced (ezetimibe –13.9%, P < 0.0001; combination therapy −7.3%, P = 0.0743; simvastatin −4.6%, P < 0.0001).
Conclusion In healthy men, treatment with ezetimibe alone is associated with the development of a pro-atherogenic LDL subfraction profile. Potentially atheroprotective effects of simvastatin are offset by ezetimibe.
This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, identifier no. NCT00317993.