PCSK9 inhibition and inflammation: A narrative review

Ruscica M., Tokgozoglu L. , Corsini A., Sirtori C. R.

ATHEROSCLEROSIS, vol.288, pp.146-155, 2019 (Journal Indexed in SCI) identifier identifier identifier


Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality despite excellent pharmacological and revascularization approaches. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are undoubtedly the most significant biochemical variables associated with atheroma, however, compelling data identify inflammation as critical for the maintenance of the atherosclerotic process, underlying some of the most feared vascular complications. Although its causal role is questionable, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) represents a major biomarker of inflammation and associated risk in CVD. While statin-associated reduced risk may be related to the lowering of both LDL-C and hs-CRP, PCSK9 inhibitors leading to dramatic LDL-C reductions do no alter hs-CRP levels. On the other hand, hs-CRP levels identify groups of patients with a high risk of CV disease achieving better ASCVD prevention in response to PCSK9 inhibition. In the FOURIER study, even in patients with extremely low levels of LDL-C, there was a stepwise risk increment according to the values of hsCRP: +9% (< 1 mg/L), +10.8% (1-3 mg/L) and +13.1% (> 3 mg/L). Likewise, in the SPIRE-1 and -2 studies, bococizumab patients with hs-CRP > 3 mg/L had a 60% greater risk of future CV events. Most of the patients enrolled in the PCSK9 trials were on maximally tolerated statin therapy at baseline, and an elevated hs-CRP may reflect residual inflammatory risk after standard LDL-C lowering therapy. Moreover, data on changes in inflammation markers in carriers of PCSK9 loss-of-function mutations are scanty and not conclusive, thus, evidence from the effects of anti-inflammatory molecules on PCSK9 levels might help unravel this hitherto complex tangle.