New Cholesterol-Lowering Drug Could Provide Alternative to Statins

According to a publication from EurekAlert, high-cholesterol patients, who do not take statins (a type of cholesterol-lowering medication often prescribed by doctors) due to adverse side effects may benefit from the development of a new class of orally administered cholesterol-lowering drugs.

The theory stems from the largest yet study of the efficacy and safety of bempedoic acid in humans. Bempedoic acid inhibits the body’s ability to create cholesterol by modifying enzyme activity.

About the study

The study involved a total 2,230 patients with high cholesterol levels who were already taking cholesterol-lowering medication. These 2,230 participants were then randomly chosen to receive the bempedoic treatment or a placebo for the next year.

It was the first clinical study of bempedoic acid that measured the effectiveness of the treatment against placebo in patients who were at increased risk of cholesterol-associated complications like heart attack or stroke. Heightened levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood can clog arteries and smaller blood vessels, increasing the risk of experiencing episodes of heart attack or stroke.

Many of the participants in the study were already being administered cholesterol-lowering medications called statins. Some users of statins report serious adverse side effects, such as muscle pain or bad reactions with other medications. Bempedoic acid works in the same way as statins, by inhibiting the activity of key cholesterol-producing enzyme ATP-citrate lyase.

Professor Kausik Ray from Imperial College London’s School of Public Health, the leader of the study, noted that the new treatment was particularly attractive because it is not expected to cause the muscle pain reported by some statin users.

Only a quarter way through the study (three months), it was observed that bempedoic acid had reduced participants’ LDL cholesterol levels by just over a mean of 18% versus placebo groups. No serious health concerns arose in the treatment group (despite a slight increase in the rate of gout, thought to be due to heightened levels of blood uric acid).

A second study, conducted by the same team, examined data from over 500,000 people and found that inhibition of ATP-citrate lyase over long periods of time seemed to reduce the risk of heart and vascular disease with no observable adverse effects.

The research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, bolsters hopes for new cholesterol-lowering treatments that will benefit the growing number of individuals experiencing adverse side effects from statins. The American pharmaceutical company developing the treatment, Esperion, hopes to market the drug in the US and Europe by the end of the year.

Statins are one of the main treatments prescribed to high-cholesterol individuals. Does the potential for an effective alternative excite you? Share your thoughts with Patient Worthy!

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