PCSK9 monoclonal antibodies for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease

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Background: Despite the availability of effective drug therapies that reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol (LDL-C), cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains an important cause of mortality and morbidity. Therefore, additional LDL-C reduction may be warranted, especially for people who are unresponsive to, or unable to take, existing LDL-C-reducing therapies. By inhibiting the proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) enzyme, monoclonal antibodies (PCSK9 inhibitors) reduce LDL-C and CVD risk. Objectives: Primary. To quantify the effects of PCSK9 inhibitors on CVD, all-cause mortality, myocardial infarction, and stroke, compared to placebo or active treatment(s) for primary and secondary prevention. Secondary. To quantify the safety of PCSK9 inhibitors, with specific focus on the incidence of influenza, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, compared to placebo or active treatment(s) for primary and secondary prevention. Search methods: We identified studies by systematically searching CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, and Web of Science in December 2019. We also searched ClinicalTrials.gov and the International Clinical Trials Registry Platform in August 2020 and screened the reference lists of included studies. This is an update of the review first published in 2017. Selection criteria: All parallel-group and factorial randomised controlled trials (RCTs) with a follow-up of at least 24 weeks and adult participants with or without a history of CVD were eligible if they compared PCSK9 inhibitors alirocumab or evolocumab to placebo or active treatments such as statins, ezetimibe, or a combination of these. Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently reviewed and extracted data. Where data were available, we calculated pooled effect estimates. We used GRADE to assess certainty of evidence and in 'Summary of findings' tables. Main results: We included 24 studies with data on 60,997 participants. Eighteen trials randomised participants to alirocumab and six to evolocumab. All participants received background lipid-lowering treatment or lifestyle counselling. Six alirocumab studies used an active treatment comparison group (the remaining used placebo), compared to three evolocumab active comparison trials. Follow-up ranged from 6 to 36 months for the comparisons with placebo and from 6 to 12 months for comparisons with active treatment. Most of the available studies preferentially enrolled people with either established CVD or at a high risk already, and evidence in low- to medium-risk settings is minimal. Alirocumab compared with placebo decreased the risk of CVD events, with an absolute risk difference (RD) of –2% (odds ratio (OR) 0.87, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.80 to 0.94; 10 studies, 23,868 participants; high-certainty evidence), decreased the risk of mortality (RD –1%; OR 0.83, 95% CI 0.72 to 0.96; 12 studies, 24,797 participants; high-certainty evidence), and MI (RD –2%; OR 0.86, 95% CI 0.79 to 0.94; 9 studies, 23,352 participants; high-certainty evidence) and for any stroke (RD 0%; OR 0.73, 95% CI 0.58 to 0.91; 8 studies, 22,835 participants; high-certainty evidence). Alirocumab compared with ezetimibe and statins: for CVD, the RD was 1% (OR 1.37, 95% CI 0.65 to 2.87; 3 studies, 1379 participants; low-certainty evidence); for mortality, RD was –1% (OR 0.51, 95% CI 0.18 to 1.40; 5 studies, 1333 participants; low-certainty evidence); for MI, RD was 1% (OR 1.45, 95% CI 0.64 to 3.28, 5 studies, 1734 participants; low-certainty evidence); and for any stroke, RD was less than 1% (OR 0.85, 95% CI 0.13 to 5.61; 5 studies, 1734 participants; low-certainty evidence). Evolocumab compared with placebo: for CVD, the RD was –2% (OR 0.84, 95% CI 0.78 to 0.91; 3 studies, 29,432 participants; high-certainty evidence); for mortality, RD was less than 1% (OR 1.04, 95% CI 0.91 to 1.19; 3 studies, 29,432 participants; high-certainty evidence); for MI, RD was –1% (OR 0.72, 95% CI 0.64 to 0.82; 3 studies, 29,432 participants; high-certainty evidence); and for any stroke RD was less than –1% (OR 0.79, 95% CI 0.65 to 0.94; 2 studies, 28,531 participants; high-certainty evidence). Evolocumab compared with ezetimibe and statins: for any CVD event RD was less than –1% (OR 0.66, 95% CI 0.14 to 3.04; 1 study, 218 participants; very low-certainty evidence); for all-cause mortality, the RD was less than 1% (OR 0.43, 95% CI 0.14 to 1.30; 3 studies, 5223 participants; very low-certainty evidence); and for MI, RD was less than 1% (OR 0.66, 95% CI 0.23 to 1.85; 3 studies, 5003 participants; very low-certainty evidence). There were insufficient data on any stroke. Authors' conclusions: The evidence for the clinical endpoint effects of evolocumab and alirocumab versus placebo were graded as high. There is a strong evidence base for the benefits of PCSK9 monoclonal antibodies to people who might not be eligible for other lipid-lowering drugs, or to people who cannot meet their lipid goals on more traditional therapies, which was the main patient population of the available trials. The evidence base of PCSK9 inhibitors compared with ezetimibe and statins is much weaker (low very- to low-certainty evidence) and it is unclear whether evolocumab or alirocumab might be effectively used as replacement therapies. Finally, there is very limited evidence on any potential safety issues of both evolocumab and alirocumab. While the current evidence synthesis does not reveal any adverse signals, neither does it provide evidence against such signals. This suggests careful consideration of alternative lipid lowering treatments before prescribing PCSK9 inhibitors.




Schmidt, A. F., Carter, J. P. L., Pearce, L. S., Wilkins, J. T., Overington, J. P., Hingorani, A. D., & Casas, J. P. (2020, October 20). PCSK9 monoclonal antibodies for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. John Wiley and Sons Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD011748.pub3

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