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Purpose of review: To summarize the evidence from recent clinical trials and metaanalyses on the efficacy of statin therapy to reduce death, myocardial infarction and stroke, and to review the effects of statins in patients with low LDL cholesterol, diabetes, end-stage renal disease, and acute coronary syndrome.

Recent findings: In large metaanalyses of randomized controlled trials relative risk reductions from statins compared with placebo for patients with manifest or with risk factors for coronary artery disease were 13% for overall mortality, 26% for fatal and nonfatal myocardial infarction, and 18% for fatal and nonfatal stroke. Evidence from large trials suggests that patients with type II diabetes compared with patients without diabetes have similar risk reductions from statins for cardiovascular events, but this benefit is not seen in patients with diabetes and end-stage renal disease. In patients with acute coronary syndrome, early treatment with high-dose atorvastatin reduces cardiovascular morbidity after the first 4 months following the event, but the impact on mortality endpoints remains less clear. Results from recent trials in patients with stable coronary artery disease or type II diabetes suggest that statins provide benefit at considerable low LDL cholesterol levels. Therefore, target values for LDL cholesterol of less than 1.8 mmol/l (<70 mg/dl) should be considered for all patients with coronary artery disease or equivalent coronary risk.

Summary: For patients at high risk of coronary artery disease there is growing evidence for the concept of 'the lower, the better' regarding LDL cholesterol levels. Ongoing trials are further investigating the safety of lower target values in patients at various risk of coronary artery disease.

(C) 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.