AbstractPurpose of review
The reputation of acyl coenzyme A:cholesterol acyltransferase (ACAT) inhibitors has changed profoundly from promising new drugs for cardiovascular prevention to drugs without clinical benefits or possibly even with adverse effects.Recent findings
ACAT inhibitors decrease the intracellular conversion of free cholesterol into cholesteryl ester in a number of tissues, including intestine, liver and macrophages. In contrast to promising results in experimental animal models, all subsequent clinical studies in humans with ACAT inhibitors failed to show lipid profile changes as well as reductions in surrogate markers for coronary artery disease. In fact, there was even a tendency towards an increase in atheroma burden in the most recent and well executed clinical trials. In addition, the inhibition of this pivotal enzyme in cholesterol esterification may interfere with reverse cholesterol transport.Summary
In our opinion, the consistent negative findings in recent clinical trials have virtually eliminated the chances for this class of drugs to be introduced for cardiovascular prevention. Possible strategies focused on selective ACAT 2 inhibition or the combination of ACAT inhibitors with compounds that stimulate reverse cholesterol transport may prove to have clinical benefit. This will have to await further clinical research in humans, however, as, obviously, rodent models cannot provide reliable data as to the efficacy of this class of drugs in humans.