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 the statin drugs that have been used for decades.
The first large studies of the new drugs were presented Saturday at an American College of Cardiology conference in Washington, and more will follow on Sunday. The new drugs block PCSK9, a substance that interferes with the liver’s ability to remove cholesterol from the blood.
Several companies are developing the drugs, which are aimed at people who have high low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol, a major risk factor for heart disease. Three studies of Amgen’s version, called evolocumab, found that it lowered LDL by 55 to 66 percent from baseline levels compared with people who took a fake drug, and by nearly that much compared with Merck’s Zetia, a cholesterol-lowering medication.
Doctors now want evidence that the way these drugs lower cholesterol also will lead to fewer heart attacks and deaths. New studies are underway, but Amgen said it will seek approval for its drug this year based only on its ability to lower cholesterol.
“I would be happy to see it approved” on the cholesterol results alone, said Hadley Wilson, a cardiologist at Carolinas HealthCare System. “We need additional agents other than statins” to help patients, he said.