Forget daily statins, Alirocumab is the new treatment to beat cholesterol, according to a recent, global study. And, according to the study’s author, the drug impacted greatly on the level of LDL cholesterol (the bad sort of cholesterol) among the study’s participants. So much so, that levels dropped dramatically within one year, as low as the LDL cholesterol levels a baby would have. This is a remarkable outcome and considering the number of participants involved and the results gleaned, Alirocumab could potentially be the next big thing in cholesterol treatment and not too far into the future. Cardiovascular events and stroke, caused by high cholesterol levels, are increasing all the time and are one of the UKs biggest killers. One of the study’s leads, Kausik Ray, says that the results indicate the drug could be one of the greatest developments for cholesterol since the statin was introduced. You can read more about the dangers of LDL cholesterol here.
Alirocumab is injected twice monthly, and works by eating up a protein called PCSK9, a protein that prevents the liver from using up LDL cholesterol, which are dangerous blood fats. 2,338 patients, who had already suffered a cardiac event such as heart attack or stroke, and those who were at a higher risk of high cholesterol, took part in the Alirocumab trial. 1,550 participants were given a the drug, plus a statin, and 788 were administered a placebo. Within one year, over one third of those taking the drug and statin combination saw their levels of LDL cholesterol decrease to the same LDL levels of an average baby. This is approximately 40% of people who took the drug.
Furthermore, in those who could not tolerate statins and only took the Alirocumab, the drug halved their cholesterol levels, dramatically reducing their level of risk. No known side effects were noted but the study will continue with an even larger participant group now and look specifically at the effects of the drug on heart attacks and strokes.
The study follows some backlash at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) by GPs after NICE issued guidelines relating to statin use last summer. The NHS watchdog suggested 17.5 million adults were eligible to take statins, a majority being men over the age of 60 and women over 65. But, GPs argue against what they call the mass medicalisation of the public. Many believe that the pharmaceutical industry is trying to cash in on one of the most profitable areas of the industry so far, statins and cholesterol lowering. We will keep an eye on further developments with Alirocumab and see how larger studies and a focus on cardiac events will impact and influence.
There are now some very easy-to-use tests specially designed for home use where cholesterol levels can be monitored. These are available through high street chemists such as Boots or through online services like Home Diagnostics.