AN innovative drug tested on patients in Yorkshire can prevent heart attacks and strokes by dramatically lowering cholesterol levels, experts have found.
The results of the study involving 27,000 patients across the world offer “real hope”, according to a Leeds-based doctor. Professor Alistair Hall, consultant cardiologist at Leeds General Infirmary and professor of clinical cardiology at the University of Leeds, said: “This is a real game-changer, particularly for people with established coronary heart disease and poor response to other drugs – these findings offer real hope.
“During five years as a study investigator I have been impressed with the level of enthusiasm of heart patients for this treatment. It is these individuals who deserve much thanks and respect for this medical breakthrough.”
Around 15m people die each year from heart attacks or stroke and Yorkshire has the highest levels of cardiovascular disease in the country.
The study saw thousands of patients, including at hospitals in Leeds, Rotherham, York, Barnsley, Sheffield, Hull and GP practices in Whitby and Doncaster, take part in the trial of the cholesterol-lowering drug evolocumab.
Researchers looked at the protective effect of evolocumab on patients from 49 countries with a history of cardiovascular disease, who were already taking statins, which are commonly prescribed for patients with high cholesterol.
Participants were chosen to randomly receive monthly or twice-monthly injections of evolocumab or placebo injections. Findings showed that the medication, along with statins, could cut cholesterol levels by almost 60 per cent on average in these patients with an underlying risk of cardiovascular disease.
Researchers said the drug, made by Amgen Inc and known by the brand name Repatha, could provide added benefits by further reducing levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – “bad cholesterol” – in their blood.
Professor Peter Sever, from the National Heart and Lung institute at Imperial College London, who led the UK arm of the trial, said: “This is one of the most important trials of cholesterol-lowering since the first statin trial, published 20 years ago.
“Our results suggest this new, extremely potent class of drug can cut cholesterol dramatically, which could provide great benefit for a lot of people at risk of heart disease and stroke.”
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was said to demonstrate the protective effect of the drug through lowering LDL cholesterol levels.
The new drug is an antibody which blocks a protein that reduces the liver’s ability to remove LDL cholesterol from the blood. The two-year trial showed one heart attack or stroke was prevented for every 74 patients taking it.
Prof Sever added: “There are a lot of people already on optimal doses of statins who have levels of cholesterol that could be lowered further.
“What this trial shows is that if you achieve these really low levels of cholesterol, you get the additional benefit, and you get that without any apparent adverse effects.”