, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 443-456
Date: 21 Nov 2012

Drug-Induced Lipid Changes

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Many drugs besides lipid-lowering drugs affect serum lipid levels in either a potentially harmful or beneficial way, and may therefore increase or decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Diuretics, β-blocking agents, progestogens, combined oral contraceptives containing ‘second generation’ progestogens, danazol, immunosuppressive agents, protease inhibitors and enzyme-inducing anticonvulsants adversely affect the lipid profile. They increase total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides by up to 40, 50 and 300%, respectively, and decrease high density lipoprotein cholesterol by a maximum of 50%. Conversely, α-blocking agents, estrogens, hormone replacement therapy, combined oral contraceptives containing ‘third generation’ progestogens, selective estrogen receptor modulators, growth hormone and valproic acid show mostly beneficial effects on the lipd profile. Some drugs, for example, isotretinoin, acitretin and antipsychotics, mainly elevate triglyceride levels.

Adverse or beneficial effects on serum cholesterol levels do not always translate into a higher or lower, respectively, incidence of cardiovascular disease, because these drugs may influence cardiovascular risk through multiple pathways. In some cases, excessive cholesterol levels occur, for example, with protease inhibitor therapy, and several cases of pancreatitis attributable to drug-induced hypertriglyceridaemia have been reported.

Some general guidelines on the management of drug-induced dyslipidaemia can be given. Replacement of the dyslipidaemia-inducing drug by an equivalent alternative therapy is preferred. However, such alternatives are often difficult to find. If there is no equivalent alternative and treatment with the dyslipidaemia-inducing drug must be initiated, monitoring of serum lipid levels is important. If drug use is expected to be long term, the existing guidelines for the management of dyslipidaemia in the general population can be applied to drug-induced dyslipidaemia. In cases of extreme hyperlipidaemia, medication use should be reassessed.