Heart attacks are scary, that’s a known fact of life. In fact, humans have spent a long time trying to figure out ways to reduce the risk of heart attack or just eliminate it all together. We’ve heard it all too, from getting proper exercise to eating and living as healthy as possible, which usually requires you to have checkups and, if you’re at high risk of going through one, take medications that might hopefully help you out. But what if there was a drug that could do away with heart disease altogether?
A recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine focused on the development of a new kind of the cholesterol-lowering drug called Evolocumab. The drug in question was a type of PCSK9 inhibitor, a new class of drug that approved in 2015 by the Food and Drug Administration. PCSK9 inhibitors specialise in reducing LDL cholesterol (of which we’ve talked about before).
LDL is characterised as the “bad” cholesterol and treated as one of the causes of heart disease. PCSK9 inhibitors have been proven to work too, being capable of reducing cholesterol levels considerably.
But don’t go running off to get a prescription just yet; while a lot of doctors have put their hopes on PCSK9 when it comes to reducing the risks of heart disease, they usually tend to be pretty expensive. Even before being tested, Evolocumab was already costing US$14,000,00 just for a year’s prescription.
But the price doesn’t matter if it works right? Well, in that regard then, Evolocumab did fulfil its purpose. It was able to lower the LDL levels by up to 60 mg/dl, which is huge. This success led scientists to wonder if maybe Evolocumab would be able to also to lower the risk of heart attacks if combined with statins.
And it worked. Evolocumab was proven to reduce the risk of strokes by 15% for 1 out of every 70 patients tested with the drug. There weren’t any side effects to it either, which led doctors to celebrate at the possibility of its success. That is until they realised that the success rate wasn’t nearly as high as what they had expected. It also didn’t remove the likelihood of developing heart disease.
People could still bet on Evolocumab, with the chance that they might end up being among the lucky few who get benefit from the treatment. But that doesn’t get around the fact that the price is still quite high, something that doctors are already trying to lower due to the unlikeliness of it working.
Other drugs, such as Ezetimibe, can help reduce LDL cholesterol and possibly heart disease with effects that can be exponential if coupled with statin therapy. However, neither this nor other PCSK9 are useful if you’re someone with any risk of developing heart disease due to genetics or lifestyle reasons.
So, for now, it seems like science and medicine still have a long way to go before they can figure out a surefire way to get rid of heart disease. At least the old methods of exercise and eating healthy are still proving great results when it comes to reducing the chance of developing it and give us hope that one day we can stop worrying about strokes.
Photo Credits: La Jornada, UPI, instagram