New cholesterol drugs may cut heart attack risk

There's a new development in treating cardiovascular disease. Two new drugs designed to lower cholesterol also appear to significantly lower the risk of heart attacks and other major cardiovascular events, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology this weekend.

A study by the pharmaceutical company Amgen analyzed 4,500 patients who stayed on treatment for a year after completing earlier trials involving an Amgen drug called Repatha. The researchers found that 0.95 percent of those given the drug and standard therapy suffered a cardiovascular event--a heart attack or stroke--compared with 2.18 percent of the group that followed only the standard treatment, which ranged from diet changes to use of statins. One side effect of the drug, described as "rare" by the researchers, was neurocognitive problems, such as confusion.

Meanwhile, in an 18-month, 2,300-patient trial, Sanofi SA and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s rival drug called Praluent was shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems from 3.3 percent for placebo patients to 1.7 percent for the treatment group. Neurocognitive side effects seemed to be more common in this group.

Both drugs are injectable antibodies that target the PCSK9 protein which maintains LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream. They work differently from statins, which block the liver's production of LDL cholesterol in the first place.

Though the results on both drugs are promising, experts said that larger studies need to be undertaken.

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Sourced from: Reuters, Experimental cholesterol drugs cut heart risk, but questions remain