The advent of statin therapy has revolutionized the ability of the clinician to manage patients at risk for the development of an ischemic event due to dyslipidemia. Large-scale clinical trials involving thousands of patients in both primary and secondary prevention have clearly demonstrated that statin therapy will reduce cardiovascular mortality across a broad spectrum of patient subgroups. Additionally, in adequately powered trials, total mortality has been successfully decreased by the use of statin therapy. However, the precise mechanism underlying the benefit of statin therapy has been controversial due to the multiplicity of potential benefits that statins have demonstrated in addition to pure lipid lowering. The causal theory of pharmacologic benefit reiterates the lipid hypothesis, which states that dyslipidemia is central to the process of atherosclerosis and the clinical benefit which accrues from statin therapy is a function of the degree of lipid lowering. The noncausal theory supports the premise that clinical benefits are related primarily to pleiotropic effects of statins (endothelial function, inflammation, coagulation and plaque vulnerability) as being the major modulators of clinical benefit. This review will focus on the potential beneficial effects of statin therapy on a number of the pleiotropic effects of statins and the potential role that these activities play in the reduction of risk for ischemic events.
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