Cardiovascular disease (CVD), which comprises heart attacks (myocardial infarction), angina, and strokes, is the principal cause of death in the world and is a major cause of morbidity worldwide. High blood cholesterol is linked to CVD events and is an important risk factor. Therefore, decreasing high blood cholesterol is an important way to reduce the chances of suffering a CVD event. Blood cholesterol may come from foods that are high in fat, and is also produced by some of our body’s organs (most of this production is at night (between 12:00 am and 6:00 am).
Statins - cholesterol-lowering drugs - (e.g. simvastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin, atorvastatin) are the first-choice treatments for preventing CVD when high blood cholesterol exists. In usual clinical practice, statins are given once per day, without specifying the time when they should be taken. The aim of this review is to analyse whether the timing of taking the statin influences the reduction of CVD events, improves blood cholesterol levels, or affects treatment safety.
We found eight randomised controlled trials that compared the effects between morning and evening statin administration in 767 people. Each trial evaluated different types and doses of statins. These trials were published between 1990 and 2013 and were conducted in the USA, Canada, Germany, Finland, Japan, South Korea and Thailand. This review includes evidence identified up to November 2015.
No trials assessed CVD clinical events or deaths. Evaluation of the available evidence indicated that there were no differences between evening or morning administration of statins in terms of lipid levels (total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), triglycerides). Additionally, there was no difference in the rate of adverse events associated with statins between both regimens.
Quality of the evidence
The evidence in this review is of low quality because of study limitations and imprecision. Larger studies are required to confirm these results.
Limited and low-quality evidence suggested that there were no differences between chronomodulated treatment with statins in people with hyperlipidaemia as compared to conventional treatment with statins, in terms of clinically relevant outcomes. Studies were short term and therefore did not report on our primary outcomes, cardiovascular clinical events or death. The review did not find differences in adverse events associated with statins between both regimens. Taking statins in the evening does not have an effect on the improvement of lipid levels with respect to morning administration. Further high-quality trials with longer-term follow-up are needed to confirm the results of this review.
Elevated levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein play an important role in the development of atheromas and, therefore, in cardiovascular diseases. Cholesterol biosynthesis follows a circadian rhythm and is principally produced at night (between 12:00 am and 6:00 am). The adjustment of hypolipaemic therapy to biologic rhythms is known as chronotherapy. Chronotherapy is based on the idea that medication can have different effects depending on the hour at which it is taken. Statins are one of the most widely used drugs for the prevention of cardiovascular events. In usual clinical practice, statins are administered once per day without specifying the time when they should be taken. It is unknown whether the timing of statin administration is important for clinical outcomes.
To critically evaluate and analyse the evidence available from randomised controlled trials regarding the effects of chronotherapy on the effectiveness and safety of treating hyperlipidaemia with statins.
We searched the CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, LILACS, ProQuest Health & Medical Complete, OpenSIGLE, Web of Science Conference Proceedings, and various other resources including clinical trials registers up to November 2015. We also searched the reference lists of relevant reviews for eligible studies.
We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs), enrolling people with primary or secondary hyperlipidaemia. To be included, trials must have compared any chronotherapeutic lipid-lowering regimen with statins and any other statin lipid-lowering regimen not based on chronotherapy. We considered any type and dosage of statin as eligible, as long as the control and experimental arms differed only in the timing of the administration of the same statin. Quasi-randomised studies were excluded.
We used the standard methodological procedures expected by Cochrane. We extracted the key data from studies in relation to participants, interventions, and outcomes for safety and efficacy. We calculated odds ratios (OR) for dichotomous data and mean differences (MD) for continuous data with 95% confidence intervals (CI). Using the GRADE approach, we assessed the quality of the evidence and we used the GRADEpro Guideline Development Tool to import data from Review Manager to create 'Summary of findings' tables.
This review includes eight RCTs (767 participants analysed in morning and evening arms). The trials used different lipid-lowering regimens with statins (lovastatin: two trials; simvastatin: three trials; fluvastatin: two trials; pravastatin: one trial). All trials compared the effects between morning and evening statin administration. Trial length ranged from four to 14 weeks. We found a high risk of bias in the domain of selective reporting in three trials and in the domain of incomplete outcome data in one trial of the eight trials included. None of the studies included were judged to be at low risk of bias.
None of the included RCTs reported data on cardiovascular mortality, cardiovascular morbidity, incidence of cardiovascular events, or deaths from any cause. Pooled results showed no evidence of a difference in total cholesterol (MD 4.33, 95% CI -1.36 to 10.01), 514 participants, five trials, mean follow-up 9 weeks, low-quality evidence), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels (MD 4.85 mg/dL, 95% CI -0.87 to 10.57, 473 participants, five trials, mean follow-up 9 weeks, low-quality evidence), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) (MD 0.54, 95% CI -1.08 to 2.17, 514 participants, five trials, mean follow-up 9 weeks, low-quality evidence) or triglycerides (MD -8.91, 95% CI -22 to 4.17, 510 participants, five trials, mean follow-up 9 weeks, low-quality evidence) between morning and evening statin administration.
With regard to safety outcomes, five trials (556 participants) reported adverse events. Pooled analysis found no differences in statins adverse events between morning and evening intake (OR 0.71, 95% CI 0.44 to 1.15, 556 participants, five trials, mean follow-up 9 weeks, low-quality evidence).