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Alternative to Statins Shows Promise
Date:3/10/2010

Broader study needed to check for possible long-term effects, experts say,,

WEDNESDAY, March 10 (HealthDay News) -- A thyroid-derived cholesterol-lowering drug that could be an alternative to the widely used statin medications has done well in a small, early trial, Swedish and American researchers report.

In the trial, various doses of the drug, eprotirome, a laboratory-engineered version of thyroid hormone, were added to statin treatment for 168 people whose high levels of LDL cholesterol had not been lowered by previous use of statins. The combination did lower cholesterol levels in the 12-week trial and, most importantly, did not cause the feared side effects on the heart and other organs that have plagued similar thyroid-based treatments.

"There was no doubt that eprotirome would lower LDL cholesterol. Thyroid hormone is nature's own statin," said Dr. Paul W. Ladenson, a professor of endocrinology and metabolism at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and lead author of a report on the trial, published in the March 11 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. "But this is a demonstration of lipid-lowering effect without thyroid toxicity."

Dr. Bo Angelin, a professor of clinical metabolic research at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, where the drug was developed, said that the trial demonstrated that careful targeting of the drug's effect within the body could obtain the benefits of thyroid hormone on blood cholesterol levels, without causing damaging side effects. The trial was funded in part by Karo Bio, a small commercial spinoff of the institute.

"We knew that thyroid hormone could lower lipid [cholesterol] levels but would have side effects on the circulation and bones and cause diarrhea," Angelin said. "Even if the lipid levels were OK, it would be overall negative for patients."

However, he added, "if we can get the thyroid effect in the liver [where cholest
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