Abstract 1927: High-dose Simvastatin Alone Inhibits Rho Kinase and Improves Flow-mediated Vasodilatation to a Greater Extent than Combination of Low-dose Simvastatin and Ezetimibe, Despite Comparable Lipid-Lowering
Background: By inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase, statins not only inhibit cholesterol biosynthesis, but also decrease the formation of isoprenoids, which are important for mediating signaling through the Rho/Rho kinase (ROCK) pathway. In animal studies, inhibition of ROCK by statins improves endothelial function, decreases inflammation, and prevents atherosclerosis. These so-called cholesterol-independent effects of statins are dose-related and may contribute to some of their clinical benefits. We hypothesize that ezetimibe, which inhibits cholesterol absorption, does not exert these cholesterol-independent effects in humans.
Methods and Results: We studied 60 dyslipidemia subjects (n=20 in each arm) in a prospective, randomized, observer-blinded study comparing treatment with simvastatin 40 mg/d or simvastatin/ezetimibe 10/10 mg/d to corresponding placebo tablets for 28 days. Prior statin usage was comparable between the groups and a washout period of 2 weeks was instituted before enrollment. Blood samples for fasting lipids, leukocyte ROCK activity and C-reactive protein (CRP) were collected at days 0 and 28. Baseline demographics, lipid levels, ROCK activity and CRP were not different between the 3 groups. Compared to placebo group, both treatment regimens decreased low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) by 38% and CRP by 32– 42% after 28 days (p<0.001 for both compared to placebo). Although LDL-C and CRP were reduced to comparable levels by either lipid-lowering regimen (p>0.05 between the groups), only simvastatin 40 mg reduced ROCK activity and improved forearm flow-mediated vasodilatation (FMD) (p<0.01 for both compared to baseline). The reduction of ROCK activity with simvastatin 40 mg remained significant even after controlling for changes in LDL-C (p=0.01) and correlated with improvement in FMD (R2=0.78, p<0.01). However, there was no correlation between changes in FMD with changes in LDL-C or CRP.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that despite comparable decrease in LDL-C and CRP, high-dose statin monotherapy has greater effects on both ROCK activity and endothelial function than low-dose statin and ezetimibe. These findings provide additional evidence of potential statin benefits beyond cholesterol lowering.