Monday, June 15, 2015

CHOLESTEROL - Powerful New Class of Drugs

"Powerful new class of cholesterol drugs offers hope for some patients" PBS NewsHour 6/10/2015


SUMMARY:  More than 30 million Americans take statins to lower their cholesterol, according to estimates.  But these popular drugs don't work for everyone.  Now the FDA may be poised to approve a powerful new class of drugs that can attack cholesterol levels in a different way.  Hari Sreenivasan talks to Dr. Steven Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic and Dr. Harlan Krumholz of the Yale School of Medicine.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  The FDA will decide later this summer whether to follow the panel’s recommendations.  But it usually does so.  And the drugs, which are injected once or twice a month, have been shown to be effective at lowering bad cholesterol in early trials.

Still, larger trials need to be completed to see if they prevent heart attacks and strokes.  And then there’s the question of how many people may ultimately take them.  More than 70 million Americans have high LDL.  Initially, they may cost around $10,000 a year per patient.

We talk to two cardiologists about these questions.

Dr. Stephen Nissen is the chair of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic.  For the record, he is leading a study of one of the drugs and is on the steering committee for a Pfizer clinical trial.  He takes no money from the companies.  And Dr. Harlan Krumholz is professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Yale School of Medicine.

So, Dr. Nissen, I want to ask, why is this class of drugs so interesting to you?  What does this do that the medications that are on the shelf today don’t do?

DR. STEPHEN NISSEN, Chairman, Department of Cardiology, Cleveland Clinic:  Well, LDL cholesterol is the primary driver of coronary heart disease, the most important risk factor that we can modify.

And we have great drugs called statin drugs, drugs like Zocor and Lipitor and so on, that are very effective at lowering LDL cholesterol and preventing heart attack, stroke and death.

But not everybody gets an adequate response to those drugs.  Some people are genetically programmed to have very high levels of bad cholesterol, LDL, and they just don’t get well enough with those drugs.  And there are other people that are intolerant of the drugs.

So we have needed another class of drugs.  These drugs are really powerful.  They lower LDL anywhere from 50 to 70 percent.  And that’s additive on top of the effects of the statin drugs.  So they’re very exciting, very powerful.

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