Effects of neomycin were studied on serum cholesterol and fecal steroids in hypercholesterolemic patients during a short treatment period (4 wk) and a long treatment period (16 mo), using small (1.5 g/d) and large (up to 6 g/d) doses alone and in combination with cholestyramine. In the short-term low-dose study the decrease in serum cholesterol by 21% was associated with a proportionate increase in fecal cholesterol elimination as neutral sterols through impaired cholesterol absorption. Serum cholesterol remained low and fecal steroid excretion remained elevated in the long-term neomycin study. Increasing the dosage from 1.5 to 6 g/d at the end of the 16-mo period brought about a further slight decrease in serum cholesterol and a small further increase in fecal neutral and acidic steroids. The increases in fecal bile acids and fat but not in neutral sterols were positively correlated with the increases in the neomycin dosage. Thus, large neomycin doses can also cause bile acid malabsorption. In another series of patients, a decrease (25%) in serum cholesterol by cholestyramine was associated with a proportional increase in the fecal elimination of cholesterol (2.5-fold) as bile acids. The inclusion of neomycin in cholestyramine therapy further increased fecal steroid output (solely as neutral sterols) by only about one-fifth of that due to cholestyramine, but further decreased serum cholesterol almost to the same extent (-17%) as cholestyramine alone. The overall decrease was 38%, no side effects occurred, and the patients found combination therapy convenient. Neomycin decreased serum cholesterol in different studies by 10±2, 17±4, and 12±4% per 100 mg/d of the increment in fecal steroids, the respective decrease for cholestyramine being only 2.2±0.5%. Thus, neomycin effectively reduced serum cholesterol by a relatively small increase in cholesterol elimination (via cholesterol malabsorption) compared with cholestyramine-induced bile acid malabsorption.
Tatu A. Miettinen