Alternative treatment for cholesterol shows promise

March 30, 2014 by Kerry Sheridan

An experimental treatment has shown promise in lowering bad cholesterol, offering hope for people at risk of heart disease but who cannot tolerate drugs known as statins, researchers said Sunday.

The therapy developed by Amgen pharmaceuticals is known as evolocumab. It is a monoclonal antibody that is injected every couple of weeks or once a month, instead of being taken in a daily pill.

Evolocumab is part of a new class of drugs known as PCSK9 inhibitors, which suppress a gene involved with cholesterol regulation in the liver.

Research from two separate phase III trials released at the American College of Cardiology annual meeting showed it was effective in lowering LDL, or , with few side effects.

The research showed evolocumab lowered cholesterol further than the only other statin-alternative on the market, ezitimibe.

It also lowered LDL in patients who were already taking , suggesting the approach could be used as an add-on for patients who need big reductions in their cholesterol but left sickened by intensive doses of statins.

About nine in 10 patients taking evolocumab achieved an LDL level of under 70 mg/dL, the target for people at high risk for .

Long-term study needed

Reducing LDL is important because too much of it can lead to clogged arteries, raising the risk of heart attack and stroke.

However, the Amgen-funded studies only lasted three months, so longer term data is needed to fully probe the treatment's safety and see whether it works to prevent heart disease over time.

"This is a really important, breakthrough kind of area," said Peter Libby, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

"Ultimately, the proof of the pudding is in the long term outcome studies that show efficacy and show safety," added Libby, who was not involved in the study.

There are also questions on whether this class of drugs may have negative effects on the brain.

The US Food and Drug Administration last month asked pharmaceutical companies Regeneron and Sanofi to assess potential neurocognitive adverse events in their PCSK9 inhibitor, alirocumab, causing jitters among stockholders and raising concerns about the drugs' path to market approval.

The research presented Sunday showed fewer than 10 percent Regeneron experienced side effects such as headache and muscle pain.

"It is well-tolerated in a difficult, high-risk patient population with a clinically unmet need, so we hope this will be a very good option for these patients," said study author Erik Stroes, professor at the Department of Vascular Medicine in Amsterdam's Medical Center.

Statins are currently taken by about 25 million Americans, though recent guidelines have suggested that more than twice that number could benefit from them.

Researchers say about 15 percent of patients are unable to take statins, mainly due to which interferes with their ability to work, climb stairs and exercise.

People who take statins are also at higher risk of developing diabetes.

"Statins are active drugs, they are wonderful drugs, unless you experience side effects," said Stroes.

Explore further: Low-dose statins good option for some heart patients, study finds

Related Stories

Low-dose statins good option for some heart patients, study finds

February 10, 2014
(HealthDay)—A new analysis suggests that people at high risk for heart disease who can't take high-dose statin drugs to lower their cholesterol might benefit from a treatment combination that includes taking a low-dose ...

Researchers find alternative cholesterol-lowering drug for patients who can't tolerate statins

March 11, 2013
Heart patients who can't tolerate the side effects of cholesterol-lowering drugs may have a new option, according to a new study by researchers from the Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center in Salt ...

Statins could ease coughing in lung disease patients, study finds

March 24, 2014
Common cholesterol-lowering drugs could provide relief to patients suffering from a chronic lung disease, a study has shown.

The skinny on fat and cholesterol

November 18, 2013
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration proposed banning transfat—partially hydrogenated oil—from restaurants and grocery shelves because it raises bad cholesterol and lowers good cholesterol, contributing to heart ...

Are statins good for your love life?

March 29, 2014
Statins are associated with a significant improvement in erectile function, a fact researchers hope will encourage men who need statins to reduce their risk of heart attack to take them, according to research to be presented ...

Monthly shot lowers cholesterol 66 percent: study

March 26, 2012
A monthly injection of an experimental drug made by the US biotech firm Amgen reduced patients' cholesterol by up to 66 percent, according to a small study described at a US cardiology conference.

Recommended for you

Eating yogurt may reduce cardiovascular disease risk

February 15, 2018
A new study in the American Journal of Hypertension, published by Oxford University Press, suggests that higher yogurt intake is associated with lower cardiovascular disease risk among hypertensive men and women.

Newly discovered gene may protect against heart disease

February 14, 2018
Scientists have identified a gene that may play a protective role in preventing heart disease. Their research revealed that the gene, called MeXis, acts within key cells inside clogged arteries to help remove excess cholesterol ...

Blood thinners may raise stroke risk in over-65s with kidney disease

February 14, 2018
People over 65 years old may be increasing their stroke risk by taking anticoagulants for an irregular heartbeat if they also have chronic kidney disease, finds a new study led by UCL, St George's, University of London and ...

Cardiac macrophages found to contribute to a currently untreatable type of heart failure

February 14, 2018
A team of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators has discovered, for the first time, that the immune cells called macrophages contribute to a type of heart failure for which there currently is no effective treatment. ...

Study maps molecular mechanisms crucial for new approach to heart disease therapy

February 13, 2018
Creating new healthy heart muscle cells within a patient's own ailing heart. This is how scientists hope to reverse heart disease one day. Today, a new study led by UNC-Chapel Hill researchers reveals key molecular details ...

Quality toolkit improves care in Indian hospitals

February 13, 2018
A simple toolkit of checklists, education materials and quality and performance reporting improved the quality of care but not outcomes in hospitals in the south Indian state of Kerala and may have the potential to improve ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.