There are few angiographic trials of cholesterol lowering in women. Two trials have included a sufficient number of women for meaningful assessment of lesion change, as determined by quantitative coronary angiography. In the University of California, San Francisco Specialized Center of Research in Arteriosclerosis (UCSF SCOR) trial, 72 patients (57% women) with familial hypercholesterolaemia (90% of whom had no overt coronary heart disease) were randomised to receive either diet and intensive drug therapy (combinations of colestipol, nicotinic acid and lovastatin) or diet and modest doses of colestipol, according to baseline low density lipoprotein cholesterol level. Coronary angiograms were obtained at 2-year intervals. Change in percentage area of stenosis (the primary end-point) in women receiving intensive drug treatment was −2.06% compared with +1.07% for the controls (p = 0.05). For the intensively treated men, corresponding values were −0.88% compared with +0.41% for the controls (difference not significant). In a recently completed trial in Canada, 269 men and 62 women with established coronary heart disease were randomised to receive either diet alone, or diet and lovastatin (up to 80mg daily). In men, the increase in percentage diameter of stenosis was reduced by 43% (p = 0.05), and in women by 40% (not significant). By contrast, new lesions appeared in 4% of women assigned to intensive drug treatment, compared with 45% of those randomised to diet (p < 0.001). In men, new lesions appeared in 18% and 29% of patients, respectively (p = 0.047).
These data suggest that coronary artery lesions in women respond at least as well as those in men to cholesterol lowering.