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Both statins and PCSK9 inhibitors lower blood low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels to reduce risk of cardiovascular events. To assess potential differences between metabolic effects of these two lipid-lowering therapies, we performed detailed lipid and metabolite profiling of a large randomized statin trial, and compared the results with the effects of genetic inhibition of PCSK9, acting as a naturally occurring trial. Methods: 228 circulating metabolic measures were quantified by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, including lipoprotein subclass concentrations and their lipid composition, fatty acids, and amino acids, for 5,359 individuals (2,659 on treatment) in the PROspective Study of Pravastatin in the Elderly at Risk (PROSPER) trial at 6-months post-randomization. The corresponding metabolic measures were analyzed in eight population cohorts (N=72,185) using PCSK9 rs11591147 as an unconfounded proxy to mimic the therapeutic effects of PCSK9 inhibitors. Results: Scaled to an equivalent lowering of LDL-C, the effects of genetic inhibition of PCSK9 on 228 metabolic markers were generally consistent with those of statin therapy (R2=0.88). Alterations in lipoprotein lipid composition and fatty acid balance were similar. However, discrepancies were observed for very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) lipid measures. For instance, genetic inhibition of PCSK9 showed weaker effects on lowering of VLDL-cholesterol compared with statin therapy (54% vs. 77% reduction, relative to the lowering effect on LDL-C; P=2x10-7 for heterogeneity). Genetic inhibition of PCSK9 showed no robust effects on amino acids, ketones, and a marker of inflammation (GlycA); in contrast, statin treatment lowered GlycA levels. Conclusions: Genetic inhibition of PCSK9 results in similar metabolic effects as statin therapy across a detailed lipid and metabolite profile. However, for the same lowering of LDL-C, PCSK9 inhibitors are predicted to be less efficacious at lowering VLDL lipids, which could potentially translate into subtle differences in cardiovascular risk reduction.

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