A new class of cholesterol drugs is being developed. Preliminary research suggests that the drugs reduce levels of “bad” cholesterol more effectively than anything currently available, and significantly reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke.
The drugs have the potential to be more effective than statins, which are the currently the most common cholesterol-lowering drug. But it has not been proved that statins reduce the risk of heart disease in stroke.
Furthermore, recent research has indicated that statins may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Heart diseases is one of the most common diabetic complications. One study concluded that statins increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by 46 per cent.
The new drugs, known as evulocumab and alirocumab, reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein in the body, potentially by as much as 60 per cent. The drugs could be more effective than statins. Both drugs inhibit PCSK9, which is a protein responsible for the regulation of cholesterol.
The drugs are being produced by American companies. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may approve them this year. But it may be several years before the drugs – if they work as intended – could be used in the UK; research is still at a preliminary stage.
Healthy cholesterol levels are particularly important for people with diabetes. Over time, prolonged exposure to high blood glucose levels can damage the arteries, making them more likely to narrow and clog. This can lead to heart disease, which is one of the most common diabetic complications. Studies suggest that as many as 80 per cent of people with diabetes will die of heart failure.
“The reduction in LDL was profound and that may be why we saw a marked reduction in cardiovascular events so quickly,” said lead author Marc Sabatine, senior physician in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston.
“It suggests that if we can drive a patient’s LDL cholesterol down a large amount to a very low level, we may start to see a benefit sooner than would be expected with a more modest intervention.
“We won’t have any definitive answers until this larger trial we are doing is complete, but these data now give us a sense for the potential clinical benefit of these drugs.”
The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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