Class Act: Do Statins Always Have to Be Taken in the Evening?

January 10, 2008

lipitor.jpgClass act is a feature of Clinical Correlations written by NYU 3rd and 4th year medical students. These posts focus on evidenced based answers to clinical questions related to patients seen by our students in the clinics or on the wards. Prior to publication, each commentary is thoroughly reviewed for content by a faculty member. Enjoy…

Commentary by David Leaf, MSIV

HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (statins) are the most powerful drugs used for lowering LDL cholesterol, with median reductions in the range of 30 to 63 percent.(1,2,3) Consequently, these drugs have emerged as a first line treatment in patients with coronary artery disease or coronary risk equivalents, and have been shown to cause substantial reductions in mortality.(4)

Patients have traditionally been instructed by their physicians to take statins in the evening for maximal effect.(5) The rationale for this recommendation comes from evidence that hepatic HMG-CoA reductase activity6 and cholesterol biosynthesis(7) are greatest at night, while the half-lives of many statins are relatively short. For example, Lovastatin, (8) Fluvastatin, (9) and Simvastatin (10) all have half-lives less than six hours. Thus, in order to achieve maximal LDL lowering, it has been advised to administer statins in the evening in order to inhibit the enzyme while it is most active. Indeed, early studies with simvastatin found that evening administration resulted in significantly greater reductions in LDL cholesterol when compared to daytime administration (21% versus 15% reduction, respectively).(11)

While the evening administration of statins has become commonplace, several studies have evaluated the applicability of the above “conventional wisdom” to the newer, more potent, HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors such as Atorvastatin and Rosuvastatin. These statins have significantly longer half-lives (14 and 19 hours, respectively)(12,13) than their older counterparts, therefore calling into question the importance of morning versus evening administration. As might be expected based on their slower metabolism, studies have in fact demonstrated that the LDL-lowering efficacy of Atorvastatin (14,15) and Rosuvastatin(16) is independent of the time of day of drug administration. Similarly, the efficacy of extended-release Fluvastatin was also recently shown to be uninfluenced by the time of intake.(17)

Because treatment with statins is usually chronic, or even lifelong, compliance to therapy is essential.(18) Given that once-daily dosage regimens have been shown to facilitate patient compliance,(19)one may extrapolate that complicating a previously once-daily (morning) regimen by adding an evening medication might decrease compliance. Clinicians should therefore be aware that not all statins have similar pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic properties, and many statins can achieve equal LDL-lowering efficacy (and arguably improved compliance) when administered in the morning as compared with the evening.

1. Levy, RI. A quarter century of drug treatment of dyslipoproteinemia, with a focus on the new HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor fluvastatin. Circulation 1993; 87(4 Suppl):III45.
2. Jones, P, Kafonek, S, Laurora, I, et al for the CURVES Investigators. Comparative dose efficacy study of atorvastatin versus simvastatin, pravastatin, lovastatin, and fluvastatin in patients with hypercholesterolemia (the CURVES study). Am J Cardiol 1998; 81:582.
3. Rosenson, RS. Rosuvastatin: a new inhibitor of HMG-coA reductase for the treatment of dyslipidemia. Expert Rev Cardiovasc Ther 2003; 1:495.
4. Randomised trial of cholesterol lowering in 4444 patients with coronary heart disease: the Scandinavian Simvastatin Survival Study (4S). Lancet 1994; 344:1383.
5. Knopp, RH. Drug Treatment of lipid disorders. N Engl J Med 1999; 341: 498-511.
6. Parker, TS, McNamara, DJ, Brown, C, Garrigan, O, Kolb, R, Batwin, H, Ahrens, EH Jr. Mevalonic acid in human plasma: relationship of concentration and circadian rhythm to cholesterol synthesis rates in man. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 1982; 79: 3037–3041.
7. Jones, PJ, Schoeller, DA. Evidence for diurnal periodicity in human cholesterol synthesis. J Lipid Res 1990; 31: 667–673. 8. Mevacor (lovastatin) package insert. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Pharmaceuticals; 2004.
9. Lescol (fluvastatin) package insert. East Hanover, NJ: Novartis Pharmaceuticals; 2004.
10. Zocor (simvastatin) package insert. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Pharmaceuticals; 2004.
11. Saito, Y, Yoshida, S, Nakaya, N, Hata, Y, Goto, Y. Comparison between morning and evening doses of simvastatin in hyperlipidemic subjects. A double-blind comparative study. Arterioscler Thromb. 1991; 11:816-26.
12. Lipitor (atorvastatin calcium) package insert. Morris Plains, NJ: Pfizer Pharmaceuticals; 2003.
13. Crestor (rosuvastatin) package insert. Wilmington, DE: AstraZeneca; 2003.
14. Cilla, DD Jr, Gibson, DM, Whitfield, LR, Sedman, AJ. Pharmacodynamic effects and pharmacokinetics of atorvastatin after administration to normocholesterolemic subjects in the morning and evening. J Clin Pharmacol. 1996; 36:604-9.
15. Plakogiannis, R, Cohen, H, Taft, D. Effects of morning versus evening administration of atorvastatin in patients with hyperlipidemia. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2005; 62(23):2491-4.
16. Martin, PD, Mitchell, PD, Schneck, DW. Pharmacodynamic effects and pharmacokinetics of a new HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor, rosuvastatin, after morning or evening administration in healthy volunteers. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2002; 54:472-7.
17. Fauler, G, Abletshauser, C, Erwa, W, Loser, R, Witschital, K, Marz, W. Time-of-intake (morning versus evening) of extended-release fluvastatin in hyperlipemic patients is without influence on the pharmacodynamics (mevalonic acid excretion) and pharmacokinetics. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2007; 45(6): 328-34.
18. Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults. The Expert Panel. Arch Intern Med. 1988; 148(1): 36-69.
19. Greenberg, RN. Overview of patient compliance with medication dosing: a literature review. Clin Ther. 1984; 6(5):592-9.

6 comments on “Class Act: Do Statins Always Have to Be Taken in the Evening?

  • Avatar of kalai
    kalai on

    Atorvastatin also has an active metabolite which has a half life ranging from 20 to 30 hours.
    And how can a morning dose improve compliance? Is there any trial regarding that?

  • Avatar of Dr,A Thomas Eapen
    Dr,A Thomas Eapen on

    I have taken atorvastatin only in the mornings since last 4 years and found that complaince is better and will not forget to take it as well. taking in the evening will be erratic as one tends to forget to take it due to lifestyle changes and much more busier evening hours that may extend late in the evening. my chol and trigly levels were very high before treatment and now its below the normal level total choles-148mg and trigly levels-121mg

  • Avatar of Randy
    Randy on

    I’m taking Lipitor mostly in the evenings when I remember. My question is, if I forget to take it in the evening should I skip taking it at all or go ahead and take it in the morning?

  • Avatar of John Fearon
    John Fearon on

    I am a nurse who is about to commence night duties.
    I take 40mg of Simvastatin at night.Should I continue to do so or would it be better taking it in the morning prior to me going to bed.

  • Avatar of e james
    e james on

    i am interested in the answer to this question,I work 3 nights per week and was wondering do i continue to take them in the evening or befor i go to bed in the morning

  • Avatar of mb
    mb on

    Hi this is a good question. I’m a pharmacist and would suggest to just change to atorvastatin or even rosuvastatin if tolerated as then it wouldn’t matter about sleep times. (KISS philosophy):)

    -also depending on why the statin is being taken – if its purely reduction of cholesterol and target levels have been achieved then no change should be considered BUT if has other morbidities then a change wouldn’t hurt eg secondary stroke prevention evidence base medicine says to use maximal statin therapy.
    -without doing a literature search to see what happens to the activity of HMG reductase in individuals with disrupted sleep patterns and to find out what the triggers are for its activity (do large meals, melatonin levels, inactivity, the list is endless) and also given that sleep disturbance does alter metabolism I would assume that there is some effect of sleeping during day versus night on HMG reductase. The degree of that effect I assume as well would be difficult to quantify as frequency and duration of sleep disturbance pattern would be two of many factors that would play a part (feel completely free to correct me if I am wrong!)

    -there is limited evidence for any difference in end outcome of mortality between the different statins. As eluded to in a previous post, there are differences in half lives, routes of elimination, Side effects, drug interactions, potency etc

    -atorva and rosuva are more potent statins than simva

    -it takes about 4-5 half lives to achieve steady state and that is also best acheived if meds are taken at the same time each day (avoids extended troughs which may become subtherapeutic)

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