An experimental cholesterol lowering drug called evlocumab may halve the risk of a heart attack or stroke as compared to the conventional statins, revealed a new study. These findings could offer an alternative in people with high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol who have been unable to manage their condition with diet, exercise and statin drugs currently on the market.
High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease. Previous research suggests that evolocumab can lower LDL cholesterol by 61%. It works differently than conventional statins. Evolocumab is a human monoclonal antibody which blocks a harmful protein in the liver, freeing the organ up to remove LDL cholesterol from the blood. This new class of drug is known as a PCSK9 inhibitor.
The findings of this study are based on 4,465 patients who were monitored for a year after completing an earlier phase of the drug's safety and efficacy testing. The patients were randomized to either receive evolocumab (Repatha), made by the pharmaceutical company Amgen, injected under the skin in addition to statins, or standard cholesterol-lowering statin drug recommended by their physician. After one year, the analysis showed the rate of cardiovascular events, such as death, heart attack, stroke, hospitalization or surgery to open blocked arteries, in the evolocumab group was 0.95%, compared to 2.18% in the traditional statin group, most of whom were taking moderate or high intensity regimens of the cholesterol-lowering drugs.
"The reduction in LDL was profound and that may be why we saw a marked reduction in cardiovascular events so quickly. 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," said lead author Marc Sabatine, senior physician in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
The drug is yet to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, and more years of long-term study of 27,000 people expected in 2017 should shed light on the drug's effectiveness.
The study was presented at the American College of Cardiology annual conference in San Diego, California, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.