Abstract Title:

On the etiology of subcapsular lenticular opacities produced in dogs receiving HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors.

Abstract Source:

Exp Eye Res. 1990 Jan ;50(1):65-78. PMID: 2307197

Abstract Author(s):

R J Gerson, J S MacDonald, A W Alberts, J Chen, J B Yudkovitz, M D Greenspan, L F Rubin, D L Bokelman

Article Affiliation:

Merck, Sharp and Dohme Research Laboratories, Department of Safety Assessment, West Point, PA 19486.


The administration of high dosages of various hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitors has resulted in the development of subcapsular lenticular opacities in dogs. While dogs receiving cataractogenic doses of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors experienced profound decreases in circulating serum cholesterol concentrations (40-60% reductions in total serum cholesterol), a causal relationship between serum cholesterol lowering and cataractogenesis was not established. A strong relationship was demonstrated, however, between the systemic exposure to inhibitor (plasma drug levels) and the cataractogenic potential of the various compounds studied. Analysis of lenses from dogs chronically dosed with various HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors revealed the presence of low drug levels in the lens (less than 500 ng equivalents g-1), but no correlation was observed between the amount of drug associated with the lens after chronic treatment and cataract development. In addition, no abnormalities in cholesterol content or sterol composition were observed in clear and/or cataract containing lenses from dogs chronically dosed with HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. The kinetics of drug appearance in the aqueous and lens cortex was assessed after doses of various HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, and suggested somewhat higher but not statistically significant peak concentrations of inhibitor were achieved by compounds which produced a higher incidence of cataracts. These data have suggested that high doses of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors may increase lenticular exposure to drug via the aqueous humor by producing a substantial systemic exposure to drug substance. This may result in an increased concentration of inhibitor in the outer cortical region of the lens where cholesterol synthesis is critical, thereby resulting in the development of opacities. The production of lenticular changes by a HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor of diverse chemical structure establishes, with reasonable assurance, that these lens changes are mechanism based (i.e. a product of the biochemical mechanism of action of this class of compounds). An extrapolation of these findings to patients receiving therapeutic dosages enables a favorable risk evaluation since the doses to be employed clinically are much lower and result in a far lower systemic exposure to drug substance.

Study Type : Review

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