Clinical Management of Hypertriglyceridemia in the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease and Pancreatitis

Hernandez P, Passi N, Modarressi T, et al.


Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2021 Sep 13;23(11):72

First published: September 13, 2021  DOI: 10.1007/s11883-021-00962-z


Purpose of Review

Hypertriglyceridemia (HTG) is common and is a significant contributor to atherosclerosis and pancreatitis risk. Specific HTG treatments have had variable success in reducing atherosclerosis risk. Novel therapies for severe HTG treatment and pancreatitis risk reduction are likely to be available soon. These novel therapies are expected to have broader applications for more moderate HTG and atherosclerosis risk reduction as well.

Recent Findings

NHANES 2012 data has confirmed a reduction in average triglyceride (TG) levels in the US population. Dietary modification and weight reduction when needed remain the core treatment elements for all individuals with HTG, while statin therapy is a foundational pharmacologic care for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) event risk reduction. In addition, the REDUCE-IT study provides evidence for additional benefit from the use of high-dose icosapent ethyl (IPE) on top of background medical therapy in adults with moderate HTG and ASCVD or type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2D) and additional ASCVD risk factors. However, treatment with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) combined with docosahexanoic acid (DHA) did not reduce ASCVD in a similar population studied in the STRENGTH trial. Furthermore, novel therapeutics targeting PPAR-ɑ, as well as ApoC-III and AngPTL3, effectively lower TG levels in individuals with moderate and severe HTG, respectively. These treatments may have applicability for reducing risk from ASCVD among individuals with chylomicronemia; in addition, ApoC-III and AngPTL3 treatments may have a role in treating individuals with the rare monogenic familial chylomicronemia syndrome (FCS) at risk for acute pancreatitis (AP).


Residual ASCVD risk in individuals treated with contemporary care may be due in part to non-LDL lipid abnormalities including HTG. The findings from REDUCE-IT, but not STRENGTH, confirm that consumption of high-dose EPA may reduce ASCVD risk, while combination therapy of EPA plus DHA does not reduce ASCVD in a similar population. TG lowering likely reduces ASCVD risk in individuals with HTG, but ASCVD risk is multifactorial; the added benefit of IPE to contemporary preventive therapy is the consequence of differential non-TG biologic properties between the two fatty acids. Acute pancreatitis is more difficult to study prospectively since it is less common; however, TG lowering is likely critical for the care of at-risk individuals. Additional benefit from novel therapy that has an impact on this otherwise refractory condition is anticipated.

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