BACKGROUND: Lowering of LDL cholesterol reduces major vascular events, but whether more intensive therapy safely produces extra benefits is uncertain. We aimed to establish efficacy and safety of more intensive statin treatment in patients at high cardiovascular risk. METHODS: We undertook a double-blind randomised trial in 12,064 men and women aged 18-80 years with a history of myocardial infarction. Participants were either currently on or had clear indication for statin therapy, and had a total cholesterol concentration of at least 3·5 mmol/L if already on a statin or 4·5 mmol/L if not. Randomisation to either 80 mg or 20 mg simvastatin daily was done centrally using a minimisation algorithm. Participants were assessed at 2, 4, 8, and 12 months after randomisation and then every 6 months until final follow-up. The primary endpoint was major vascular events, defined as coronary death, myocardial infarction, stroke, or arterial revascularisation. Analysis was by intention to treat. This study is registered, number ISRCTN74348595. FINDINGS: 6031 participants were allocated 80 mg simvastatin daily, and 6033 allocated 20 mg simvastatin daily. During a mean follow-up of 6·7 (SD 1·5) years, allocation to 80 mg simvastatin produced an average 0·35 (SE 0·01) mmol/L greater reduction in LDL cholesterol compared with allocation to 20 mg. Major vascular events occurred in 1477 (24·5%) participants allocated 80 mg simvastatin versus 1553 (25·7%) of those allocated 20 mg, corresponding to a 6% proportional reduction (risk ratio 0·94, 95% CI 0·88-1·01; p=0·10). There were no apparent differences in numbers of haemorrhagic strokes (24 [0·4%] vs 25 [0·4%]) or deaths attributed to vascular (565 [9·4%] vs 572 [9·5%]) or non-vascular (399 [6·6%] vs 398 [6·6%]) causes. Compared with two (0·03%) cases of myopathy in patients taking 20 mg simvastatin daily, there were 53 (0·9%) cases in the 80 mg group. INTERPRETATION: The 6% (SE 3·5%) reduction in major vascular events with a further 0·35 mmol/L reduction in LDL cholesterol in our trial is consistent with previous trials. Myopathy was increased with 80 mg simvastatin daily, but intensive lowering of LDL cholesterol can be achieved safely with other regimens. FUNDING: Merck; The Clinical Trial Service Unit also receives funding from the UK Medical Research Council and the British Heart Foundation.

Original publication






Publication Date





1658 - 1669


Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Anticholesteremic Agents, Cholesterol, HDL, Cholesterol, LDL, Double-Blind Method, Female, Humans, Hypercholesterolemia, Male, Middle Aged, Myocardial Infarction, Simvastatin, Triglycerides, Young Adult