Prescription Drug Information: Lovastatin

LOVASTATIN- lovastatin tablet
PD-Rx Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Rx only


Lovastatin is a cholesterol lowering agent isolated from a strain of Aspergillus terreus. After oral ingestion, lovastatin, which is an inactive lactone, is hydrolyzed to the corresponding β-hydroxyacid form. This is a principal metabolite and an inhibitor of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase. This enzyme catalyzes the conversion of HMG-CoA to mevalonate, which is an early and rate limiting step in the biosynthesis of cholesterol.

Lovastatin is [1 S -[1α( R *), 3α, 7β, 8β(2 S *,4 S *),8aβ]]-1,2,3, 7,8,8a-hexahydro-3,7-dimethyl-8-[2-(tetrahydro-4-hydroxy-6-oxo-2 H -pyran-2-yl)ethyl]-1-naphthalenyl 2-methylbutanoate. The empirical formula of lovastatin is C 24 H 36 O 5 and its molecular weight is 404.55. Its structural formula is:

Structural Formula

Lovastatin is a white, nonhygroscopic crystalline powder that is insoluble in water and sparingly soluble in ethanol, methanol, and acetonitrile.

Lovastatin tablets are supplied as 10 mg, 20 mg and 40 mg tablets for oral administration. In addition to the active ingredient lovastatin, each tablet contains the following inactive ingredients: lactose monohydrate, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, poloxamer, pregelatinized starch, sodium starch glycolate, butylated hydroxyanisole and talc. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is added as a preservative.


The involvement of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) in atherogenesis has been well-documented in clinical and pathological studies, as well as in many animal experiments. Epidemiological and clinical studies have established that high LDL-C and low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) are both associated with coronary heart disease. However, the risk of developing coronary heart disease is continuous and graded over the range of cholesterol levels and many coronary events do occur in patients with total cholesterol (total-C) and LDL-C in the lower end of this range.

Lovastatin has been shown to reduce both normal and elevated LDL-C concentrations. LDL is formed from very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) and is catabolized predominantly by the high affinity LDL receptor. The mechanism of the LDL-lowering effect of lovastatin may involve both reduction of VLDL-C concentration, and induction of the LDL receptor, leading to reduced production and/or increased catabolism of LDL-C. Apolipoprotein B also falls during treatment with lovastatin.

Lovastatin is a specific inhibitor of HMG-CoA reductase, the enzyme which catalyzes the conversion of HMG-CoA to mevalonate. The conversion of HMG-CoA to mevalonate is an early step in the biosynthetic pathway for cholesterol.


Lovastatin is a lactone, which is readily hydrolyzed in vivo to the corresponding β-hydroxyacid, a strong. inhibitor of HMG-CoA reductase. Inhibition of HMG-CoA reductase is the basis for an assay in pharmacokinetic studies of the β-hydroxyacid metabolites (active inhibitors) and, following base hydrolysis, active plus latent inhibitors (total inhibitors) in plasma following administration of lovastatin.

Following an oral dose of 14 C-labeled lovastatin in man, 10% of the dose was excreted in urine and 83% in feces. The latter represents absorbed drug equivalents excreted in bile, as well as any unabsorbed drug. Plasma concentrations of total radioactivity (lovastatin plus 14 C-metabolites) peaked at 2 hours and declined rapidly to about 10% of peak by 24 hours postdose. Absorption of lovastatin, estimated relative to an intravenous reference dose, in each of four animal species tested, averaged about 30% of an oral dose. In animal studies, after oral dosing, lovastatin had high selectivity for the liver, where it achieved substantially higher concentrations than in non-target tissues. Lovastatin undergoes extensive first-pass extraction in the liver, its primary site of action, with subsequent excretion of drug equivalents in the bile. As a consequence of extensive hepatic extraction of lovastatin, the availability of drug to the general circulation is low and variable. In a single dose study in four hypercholesterolemic patients, it was estimated that less than 5% of an oral dose of lovastatin reaches the general circulation as active inhibitors. Following administration of lovastatin tablets the coefficient of variation, based on between-subject variability, was approximately 40% for the area under the curve (AUC) of total inhibitory activity in the general circulation.

Both lovastatin and its β-hydroxyacid metabolite are highly bound (>95%) to human plasma proteins. Animal studies demonstrated that lovastatin crosses the blood-brain and placental barriers.

The major active metabolites present in human plasma are the β-hydroxyacid of lovastatin, its 6′-hydroxy derivative, and two additional metabolites. Peak plasma concentrations of both active and total inhibitors were attained within 2 to 4 hours of dose administration. While the recommended therapeutic dose range is 10 to 80 mg/day, linearity of inhibitory activity in the general circulation was established by a single dose study employing lovastatin tablet dosages from 60 to as high as 120 mg. With a once-a-day dosing regimen, plasma concentrations of total inhibitors over a dosing interval achieved a steady state between the second and third days of therapy and were about 1.5 times those following a single dose. When lovastatin was given under fasting conditions, plasma concentrations of total inhibitors were on average about two-thirds those found when lovastatin was administered immediately after a standard test meal.

In a study of patients with severe renal insufficiency (creatinine clearance 10 to 30 mL/min), the plasma concentrations of total inhibitors after a single dose of lovastatin were approximately two-fold higher than those in healthy volunteers.

In a study including 16 elderly patients between 70 to 78 years of age who received lovastatin 80 mg/day, the mean plasma level of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitory activity was increased approximately 45% compared with 18 patients between 18 to 30 years of age (see PRECAUTIONS, Geriatric Use).

Although the mechanism is not fully understood, cyclosporine has been shown to increase the AUC of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. The increase in AUC for lovastatin and lovastatin acid is presumably due, in part, to inhibition of CYP3A4.

The risk of myopathy is increased by high levels of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitory activity in plasma. Strong inhibitors of CYP3A4 can raise the plasma levels of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitory activity and increase the risk of myopathy (see WARNINGS, Myopathy/Rhabdomyolysis and PRECAUTIONS, Drug Interactions).

Lovastatin is a substrate for cytochrome P450 isoform 3A4 (CYP3A4) (see PRECAUTIONS, Drug Interactions.) Grapefruit juice contains one or more components that inhibit CYP3A4 and can increase the plasma concentrations of drugs metabolized by CYP3A4. In one study 1 , 10 subjects consumed 200 mL of double-strength grapefruit juice (one can of frozen concentrate diluted with one rather than 3 cans of water) three times daily for 2 days and an additional 200 mL double-strength grapefruit juice together with and 30 and 90 minutes following a single dose of 80 mg lovastatin on the third day. This regimen of grapefruit juice resulted in a mean increase in the serum concentration of lovastatin and its β-hydroxyacid metabolite (as measured by the area under the concentration-time curve) of 15-fold and 5-fold, respectively [as measured using a chemical assay-high performance liquid chromatography.] In a second study, 15 subjects consumed one 8 oz glass of single-strength grapefruit juice (one can of frozen concentrate diluted with 3 cans of water) with breakfast for 3 consecutive days and a single dose of 40 mg lovastatin in the evening of the third day. This regimen of grapefruit juice resulted in a mean increase in the plasma concentration (as measured by the area under the concentration-time curve) of active and total HMG-CoA reductase inhibitory activity [using an enzyme inhibition assay both before (for active inhibitors) and after (for total inhibitors) base hydrolysis] of 1.34-fold and 1.36-fold, respectively, and of lovastatin and its β-hydroxyacid metabolite [measured using a chemical assay-liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry-different from that used in the first 1 study] of 1.94-fold and 1.57-fold, respectively. The effect of amounts of grapefruit juice between those used in these two studies on lovastatin pharmacokinetics has not been studied.


1 Kantola, T, et al., Clin Pharmacol Ther 1998; 63(4):397-402.

Table I
(click image for full-size original)

* Results based on a chemical assay.

† Lovastatin acid refers to the β-hydroxyacid of lovastatin.

‡ The mean total AUC of lovastatin without itraconazole phase could not be determined accurately. Results could be representative of strong CYP3A4 inhibitors such as ketoconazole, posaconazole, clarithromycin, telithromycin, HIV protease inhibitors, and nefazodone.

§ Estimated minimum change.

¶ The effect of amounts of grapefruit juice between those used in these two studies on lovastatin pharmacokinetics has not been studied.

# Double-strength: one can of frozen concentrate diluted with one can of water.

Grapefruit juice was administered TID for 2 days, and 200 mL together with single dose lovastatin and 30 and 90 minutes following single dose lovastatin on Day 3.

Þ Single-strength: one can of frozen concentrate diluted with 3 cans of water. Grapefruit juice was administered with breakfast for 3 days, and lovastatin was administered in the evening on Day 3.

ß Cyclosporine-treated patients with psoriasis or post kidney or heart transplant patients with stable graft function, transplanted at least 9 months prior to study.

à ND = Analyte not determined.

è Lactone converted to acid by hydrolysis prior to analysis. Figure represents total unmetabolized acid and lactone.

Clinical Studies in Adults

Lovastatin has been shown to reduce total-C and LDL-C in heterozygous familial and non-familial forms of primary hypercholesterolemia and in mixed hyperlipidemia. A marked response was seen within 2 weeks, and the maximum therapeutic response occurred within 4 to 6 weeks. The response was maintained during continuation of therapy. Single daily doses given in the evening were more effective than the same dose given in the morning, perhaps because cholesterol is synthesized mainly at night.

In multicenter, double-blind studies in patients with familial or non-familial hypercholesterolemia, lovastatin, administered in doses ranging from 10 mg q.p.m. to 40 mg b.i.d., was compared to placebo. Lovastatin significantly decreased plasma total-C, LDL-C, total-C/HDL-C ratio and LDL-C/HDL-C ratio. In addition, lovastatin produced increases of variable magnitude in HDL-C, and modestly decreased VLDL-C and plasma TG (see Tables II through IV for dose response results).

The results of a study in patients with primary hypercholesterolemia are presented in Table II.

TABLE II Lovastatin vs Placebo (Mean Percent Change from Baseline After 6 Weeks)
10 mg q.p.m.33-16-21+5-24-19-10
20 mg q.p.m.33-19-27+6-30-23+9
10 mg b.i.d.32-19-28+8-33-25-7
40 mg q.p.m.33-22-31+5-33-25-8
20 mg b.i.d.36-24-32+2-32-24-6

Lovastatin was compared to cholestyramine in a randomized open parallel study. The study was performed with patients with hypercholesterolemia who were at high risk of myocardial infarction. Summary results are presented in Table III.

TABLE III Lovastatin vs. Cholestyramine (Percent Change from Baseline After 12 Weeks)
TREATMENTNTOTAL-C (mean) LDL-C (mean) HDL-C (mean) LDL-C/ HDL-C (mean) TOTAL-C/ HDL-C (mean) VLDL-C (median) TRIG. (median)
20 mg b.i.d.85-27-32+9-36-31-34-21
40 mg b.i.d.88-34-42+8-44-37-31-27
12 g b.i.d.88-17-23+8-27-21+2+11

Lovastatin was studied in controlled trials in hypercholesterolemic patients with well-controlled non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus with normal renal function. The effect of lovastatin on lipids and lipoproteins and the safety profile of lovastatin were similar to that demonstrated in studies in nondiabetics. Lovastatin had no clinically important effect on glycemic control or on the dose requirement of oral hypoglycemic agents. provides trustworthy package insert and label information about marketed prescription drugs as submitted by manufacturers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Package information is not reviewed or updated separately by Every individual prescription drug label and package insert entry contains a unique identifier which can be used to secure further details directly from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and/or the FDA.

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