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Pharmacology of the ACAT Inhibitor Avasimibe (CI-1011)

     Avasimibe is a novel orally bioavailable ACAT inhibitor, currently under clinical development (phase III trials). It was safe when administered to rats, dogs, and humans.In vitro studies in human macrophages demonstrated that avasimibe reduces foam cell formation not only by enhancing free cholesterol efflux, but also by inhibiting the uptake of modified LDL. The concentration-dependent reduction in cellular cholesteryl ester content in these cells was not accompanied by an increase in intracellular free cholesterol,which is in agreement with a good safety profile for avasimibe. In the liver, avasimibe caused a significant reduction in the secretion of apo B and apo B-containing lipoproteins into plasma. Avasimibe induced cholesterol 7-hydroxylase and increased bile acid synthesis in cultured rat hepatocytes, and its administration to rats did not produce an increase

    in lithogenicity index of the bile. The hypolipidemic efficacy of the compound was demonstrated in cholesterol-fed as well as in non-cholesterol-fed animals. In these models,plasma cholesterol levels were reduced, mainly due to the decrease in the non-HDL

    cholesterol fraction. Clinical data are scarce, but in a study performed in 130 men and

    women with combined hyperlipidemia and hypoalphalipoproteinemia, avasimibe, 50C500

    mg_day, significantly reduced plasma total triglyceride and VLDL-cholesterol. Although

    total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and HDL-cholesterol were unchanged, it must be

    stressed that animal data suggest that avasimibe may have direct antiatherosclerotic activity in addition to its cholesterol-lowering effect. Avasimibe treatment can also contribute to increase plaque stability, as it reduces the accumulation of lipids in the arterial wall, inhibits macrophage infiltration into the media and reduces matrix metalloproteinase expression and activity. Moreover, avasimibe and statins have been shown to have synergistic effects, and the combination therapy may not only inhibit atherosclerotic lesion progression but also induce lesion regression, independently of changes in plasma cholesterol.