Studies in animals and humans indicate a pivotal role for adhesion molecules (AMs) in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. Whereas an association between hypercholesterolaemia and AM expression has been suggested, it is unclear whether lowering cholesterol decreases AM expression and release. We compared the effects of a 3-month treatment with standard doses of three different statins (atorvastatin, simvastatin and pravastatin) on plasma levels of circulating AM (cAM) in 75 hypercholesterolaemic patients in a randomized clinical trial. Plasma levels of circulating (c)E-selectin, circulating intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (cICAM-1) and circulating vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (cVCAM-1) were measured before and after 3 months of therapy. None of the statins lowered plasma cAM levels and pooled analyses of all patients showed a 1.7% [95% confidence interval (CI), -1.4–4.9%] increase in cE-selectin, a 2.1% (95% CI, -0.2–4.4%) increase in cICAM-1, and a 2.7% (95% CI, -0.6–6.1%) increase in cVCAM-1 levels. cAM levels did not decrease, even in patients with a >50% decrease (n = 19) in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. This study provides strong evidence that 3 months of therapy with three different statins does not decrease cAM levels, despite normalization of cholesterol levels, and a minor decrease in C-reactive protein levels in patients with moderate hypercholesterolaemia.

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