A powerful new drug slashes “bad” cholesterol significantly, a study has found.
Alirocumab could be the most important drug to tackle bad cholesterol since statins were introduced.
It is being hailed as the latest weapon against heart attacks and stroke after a study found it all but eliminated dangerous blood fats in more than a third of people taking statins.
In people unable to take them, Alirocumab halved LDL, or bad cholesterol, reducing the risk of potentially fatal conditions.
A global study of more than 2,000 patients showed that more than a third of those given the drug saw their level of fats fall to a baby’s. “Alirocumab when used alongside a statin, will dramatically lower cholesterol,” said lead researcher Professor Kausik Ray.
“Around 40 per cent of people who took it saw their levels reduce to that of a newborn.”
The medication is dubbed the Pac-Man drug because, like in the video game, it “gobbles up” a protein and allows the body to get rid of bad cholesterol more effectively, Prof Ray said. It could eventually be taken as a self-administered injection.
A total of 2,338 patients who had suffered a heart attack, stroke or who were at high risk of raised cholesterol took part in the trial. Of those, 788 were given a placebo and 1,550 Alirocumab and a statin. Of the 1,550, 562 saw their level of bad cholesterol fall to less than a baby’s level within a year.
Prof Ray, of St George’s Hospital, south London, said: “It is the biggest reduction we’ve had since statins were first introduced.
“It’s really exciting to have a treatment that can lower LDL cholesterol in these high-risk groups. For these people that can’t lower their cholesterol but are at very high-risk, we’ve had really weak treatments and thought, what can we do?
“They’ve had a heart attack, a bypass, or they can’t tolerate this or that, and their cholesterol is still bad despite everything. So in these selected individuals we are going to get a therapeutic choice.”
Statins can reduce LDL cholesterol by up to 50 per cent and this drug can reduce it by a further 50 per cent. The drug was injected bi-monthly by participants during the trial.
Prof Ray said: “It is likely to reduce your risk of heart disease as it will lower LDL cholesterol, however, the risk isn’t going to be abolished. People are not going to be immortal.