Fibrates: what have we learned in the past 40 years?

Pharmacotherapy. 2007 Mar;27(3):412-24.  

Backes JM, Gibson CA, Ruisinger JF, Moriarty PM.
Department of Pharmacy Practice, University of Kansas School of Pharmacy, Lawrence, Kansas, USA. 

The prominent use of fibric acid derivatives has lessened over the years because of unimpressive results in major clinical trials, safety concerns, and the emergence of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors (statins). Clofibrate was widely used in the 1970s, but after publication of results from two major trials demonstrating only modest reductions in the rate of coronary heart disease (CHD) and concerns regarding an increase in the frequency of gallstones and overall mortality, its use subsided dramatically. With the introduction of gemfibrozil in the 1980s came a renewed interest in the class, which was also supported by the published results of the Helsinki Heart Study; however, despite a significant reduction in CHD events and a sound safety profile, overall mortality was comparable to that with placebo. Again, in the 1990s, awareness of the fibrates was heightened with the availability of fenofibrate and the findings of another major trial using gemfibrozil, the Veterans Affairs High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Intervention Trial (VA-HIT), which demonstrated impressive results in reducing cardiovascular events. To further strengthen the VA-HIT results, numerous post hoc analyses were performed on the data of major trials of fibrate therapy among patients with mixed dyslipidemia, with similar findings. Recently, however, data from the Fenofibrate Intervention and Event Lowering in Diabetes (FIELD) study were published, indicating mixed results. Nearly 40 years after the introduction of the fibrates, practitioners are still contemplating the role of these agents in the treatment of CHD.