MAR 20, 2017 1:10 PM PDT

A Better Drug than Statin at Reducing Cholesterol?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

A new drug may drastically cut cholesterol levels so significantly that doctors say it can help thwart some of the biggest killers in the world: heart attacks and strokes.

The drug is known as evolocumab (trade name Repatha). It is an antibody that allows more LDL receptors to be present on the surface of liver cells. This has the effect of increasing the body’s ability to remove more of the “bad” cholesterol from the bloodstream.

Why is having low cholesterol so important? High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in both men and women. It’s estimated that cholesterol-related factors lead to 15 million fatal heart attacks and strokes every year.

Traditionally, to help patients for whom diet and lifestyle changes aren’t quite enough, doctors often prescribe statins, formally known as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. As its name suggests, statins work to lower cholesterol by blocking a key enzyme, HMG-CoA reductase, which has a central role in the production of cholesterol.

But, while statins are ubiquitous for cholesterol control, researchers say the evolocumab antibody approach works significantly better.

"It is much more effective than statins," said Dr. Peter Sever, from Imperial College London, who collaborated on a large international trial of 27,000 patients with this drug. "The end result was cholesterol levels came down and down and down and we've seen cholesterol levels lower than we have ever seen before in the practice of medicine."

"[Patients] would have another 20% reduction in risk and that is a big effect. It is probably the most important trial result of a cholesterol lowering drug in over 20 years,” explained Dr. Sever.

Of note, the trial did not follow patients for an extended period of time; the average follow-up period was 2.2 years. Therefore, other researchers caution that the long-term life-saving benefits of this drug still need to be explored.

Furthermore, evolocumab may not be enough to replace statins altogether, as researchers observed synergistic effects when the two drug types were combined. “There are an awful lot of people with really quite high cholesterol out there and we'll probably need more than one drug to get their levels down,” said Dr. Server.

Additional sources: New England Journal of MedicineBBC

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JUL 07, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Throat Swabs Prevent COVID False Negatives
JUL 07, 2020
Throat Swabs Prevent COVID False Negatives
  False-negative results are particularly problematic in containing the spread of COVID-19 — infected individ ...
JUL 09, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Women's Hair Holds Fertility Clues
JUL 09, 2020
Women's Hair Holds Fertility Clues
A new predictive tool for measuring women’s fertility uses an unlikely biological source for answers: hair. During ...
JUL 30, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
How Are DNA Testing Companies Helping the Fight Against COVID?
JUL 30, 2020
How Are DNA Testing Companies Helping the Fight Against COVID?
One of the most puzzling characteristics of coronavirus is how some people develop severe symptoms and die from the dise ...
AUG 15, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
How Dermatitis is Linked to Increased Risk of Food Allergies
AUG 15, 2020
How Dermatitis is Linked to Increased Risk of Food Allergies
Small changes in the genome can sometimes have a huge impact, and researchers have found two that increase the risk of e ...
AUG 24, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
New Portable MRI Swoops Into Hospital Rooms, Gets FDA Nod
AUG 24, 2020
New Portable MRI Swoops Into Hospital Rooms, Gets FDA Nod
Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is a medical imaging technique that uses powerful magnetic fields and radio waves to ...
OCT 13, 2020
Cardiology
A Kidney Toxin Could Act as a Biomarker for Cardiovascular Risk
OCT 13, 2020
A Kidney Toxin Could Act as a Biomarker for Cardiovascular Risk
Biomarkers have taken the diagnostic field by storm over the past decade. The search for stable, easy to access indicato ...
Loading Comments...