Experimental drugs can lower cholesterol

A new class of experimental medicines can dramatically lower cholesterol, raising hopes of a fresh option for people who can’t tolerate or don’t get enough help from statin drugs that have been used for decades.

The first large studies of these drugs were presented Saturday at an American College of Cardiology conference in Washington, and more will follow Sunday.

Several companies are developing the drugs, which are aimed at people who have high LDL or “bad” cholesterol, a major risk for heart disease. The drugs block PCSK9, a substance that interferes with the liver’s ability to remove cholesterol from blood.

Three studies of Amgen’s version of these drugs, called evolocumab, found it lowered LDL cholesterol by 55 to 66 percent from baseline levels compared with others who took a fake drug and by nearly that much when compared to Merck’s Zetia, another cholesterol medication.

Doctors want evidence that the way the drugs lower cholesterol also will lead to fewer heart attacks and deaths. Studies are underway, but Amgen said it will seek approval for its drug this year based on cholesterol-lowering alone.

The new drugs are proteins, which tend to be expensive to make. They also must be given as shots every two weeks or once a month. The firms developing the drugs have not said what they might cost.

— Associated Press

Man-made heart valve reduces deaths

A man-made aortic valve, inserted into the heart without cracking open the chest, reduced patient death rates more than open-heart surgery in the first study to ever record such a finding, according to research presented Saturday at the American College of Cardiology meeting in Washington.

About 14 percent of patients in the 747-person trial died within a year of treatment with Medtronic’s CoreValve, while 19 percent of those who underwent open-heart surgery died, research showed.

The findings may bolster use of a new procedure in which man-made valves are inserted into the heart using a catheter through an artery, saving recovery time.

— Bloomberg

Boy finds remains of American Indian

A 14-year-old boy digging a trout pond in the back yard of his father’s Salt Lake City home stumbled across a surprise: the remains of an American Indian who lived about 1,000 years ago.

Experts from the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts spent Friday removing the remains, which were confirmed by medical examiners as those of a person from a millennium ago. Ali Erturk made the discovery earlier in the week.

“Humans have occupied this valley for up to 10,000 years,” department spokesman Geoffrey Fattah told the Salt Lake Tribune. “We do run into situations where progress runs into the ancient past.”

forensic anthropologist will analyze the remains to try to learn more, including the person’s gender and cultural affiliation. The state Division of Indian Affairs will try to determine whether the remains are linked to current tribes, Fattah said. A tribe may claim the remains and perform interment rites.

— Associated Press

Pilot found guilty of groping teen: An airline pilot was convicted of abusive sexual contact for groping a 14-year-old girl while he was a passenger on a flight from Detroit to Salt Lake City. Michael Pascal, 45, was found guilty Thursday by a jury after a three-day trial in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City. The girl told investigators that she woke up from a nap Oct. 26 on an Delta Airlines flight and found Pascal’s hand under her, gripping her buttocks. Pascal, who worked for a regional airline carrier that contracts with Delta, said he fell asleep with his hands in his lap and doesn’t know how one ended up under the girl.

Man kills grandson’s girlfriend, himself: Police say an 86-year-old man shot his grandson in the head and then killed the grandson’s girlfriend before fatally shooting himself in New York City. The grandson is in stable condition at Staten Island University Hospital. He was not identified. The couple’s 4-month-old son was found unharmed inside the house. Police say a motive for the shootings isn’t clear.

— Associated Press