WEDNESDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- An experimental drug that raises HDL, or "good," cholesterol seems to have passed an initial hurdle by proving safe in preliminary trials.
Although the trial was primarily designed to look at safety, researchers scheduled to present the finding Wednesday at the American Heart Association's annual meeting in Chicago also report that anacetrapib raised HDL cholesterol by 138 percent and cut LDL, HDL's evil twin, almost in half.
"We saw very encouraging reductions in clinical events," said Dr. Christopher Cannon, lead author of the study, which also appears in the Nov. 18 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
A big study to confirm the results would take four to five years to complete so the drug is still years away from market, said Cannon, who is a cardiologist with Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
Other experts are intrigued by the findings, but note that the research is still in very early stages.
"There are a lot of people in the prevention/lipid field that are simultaneously excited and leery," said Dr. Howard Weintraub, clinical director of the Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.
Added Dr. John C. LaRosa, president of the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center in New York City: "It's very preliminary but it's important because the last drug out of the barrel of this type was not a success. This looks like a better drug, but it's not definitive by any means. Don't take this to the bank."
LaRosa was referring to torcetrapib, which, like anacetrapib, belongs to the class of drugs known as cholesterol ester transfer protein (CETP) inhibitors.
A large trial on torcetrapib was killed after investigators found an increased risk of death and other cardiovascular outcomes.
"I would be more excited [
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