The new drug did hit its target, PCSK9, and decreased levels of LDL cholesterol by up to 64 percent. There were also decreases seen in levels of total cholesterol and apo-B (tiny fat particles in the blood that also increase the risk for heart disease). Levels of triglycerides and "good" HDL cholesterol were not altered by the medication, and there were no serious side effects reported. Now, researchers are testing the new shot in people who have high cholesterol.
Cardiologists were cautiously optimistic about the novel therapy.
Former AHA President Dr. Ralph Sacco said that it is too early to make any predictions about what role, if any, this therapy will have in lowering cholesterol levels, but it could one day fill an important void.
"Even though statins are so effective at lowering cholesterol and reducing risk for heart disease and stroke, they do need to be taken every day and they can have certain side effects in some people," he said. Statin side effects can include liver damage and/or muscle pain.
"This new shot may provide a more long-lasting approach, especially if it could be given once a month," Sacco said.
Dr. Dan Rader, director of preventive cardiology at the University of Pennsylvania, said that PCSK9 is "the hottest target for new treatments to lower LDL cholesterol." And these study results will probably fuel that fire, he added.
"A 60-plus percent reduction in LDL with a single dose of this antibody is impressive," he said. "It is the early days, but the data look strong. We now need more data with people who have repeated dosing and are followed for longer periods of time," Rader added.
"There are still plenty of people who can't achieve adequate LDL levels with existing drugs, including statins," he noted. Plus, "people may find it easier to get a shot every two weeks or monthly than to take a pill ever
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