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AIM: Lowering low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) through PCSK9 inhibition represents a new therapeutic approach to preventing and treating cardiovascular disease (CVD). Phenome-wide analyses of PCSK9 genetic variants in large biobanks can help to identify unexpected effects of PCSK9 inhibition. METHODS: In the prospective China Kadoorie Biobank, we constructed a genetic score using three variants at the PCSK9 locus associated with directly-measured LDL-C (PCSK9-GS). Logistic regression gave estimated odds ratios (ORs) for PCSK9-GS associations with CVD and non-CVD outcomes, scaled to 1SD lower LDL-C. RESULTS: PCSK9-GS was associated with lower risks of carotid plaque (n=8340 cases; OR=0.61 [95%CI: 0.45-0.83]; P=0.0015), major occlusive vascular events (n=15,752; 0.80 [0.67-0.95]; P=0.011), and ischaemic stroke (n=11,467; 0.80 [0.66-0.98]; P=0.029). However, PCSK9-GS was also associated with higher risk of hospitalisation with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD: n=6836; 1.38 [1.08-1.76]; P=0.0089), and with even higher risk of fatal exacerbations among individuals with pre-existing COPD (n=730; 3.61 [1.71-7.60]; P=7.3x10-4). We also replicated associations for a PCSK9 variant, reported in UK Biobank, with increased risks of acute upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) (pooled OR after meta-analysis of 1.87 ([1.38-2.54]; P=5.4x10-5) and self-reported asthma (pooled OR 1.17 ([1.04-1.30]; P=0.0071). There was no association of a polygenic LDL-C score with COPD hospitalisation, COPD exacerbation, or URTI. CONCLUSIONS: LDL-C-lowering PCSK9 genetic variants are associated with lower risk of subclinical and clinical atherosclerotic vascular disease, but higher risks of respiratory diseases. Pharmacovigilance studies may be required to monitor patients treated with therapeutic PCSK9 inhibitors for exacerbations of respiratory diseases or respiratory tract infections.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur J Prev Cardiol

Publication Date



Mendelian randomisation, PCSK9 inhibition, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, exacerbation, target-mediated adverse effects, upper respiratory tract infection