New Cholesterol-Lowering Drug More Effective in Slashing Heart Attack Risk

New Cholesterol-Lowering Drug More Effective in Slashing Heart Attack Risk

Amgen’s breakthrough drug, Repatha, can lower the risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular incidents better than other classes of cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as statins, recent research suggests.

Repatha Rather Pricey for What It Delivers

However, the results were rather disappointing as the new drug is not as effective in preventing cardiovascular fatalities. So, many patients and doctors alike wonder whether the $14,523-per-year drug is worth the money. Repatha is several times more expensive than the priciest brand of statins before generics hit the market.

Doctors now debate who should take the new drug.

Investors and cardiologists had hoped the new brand would lower the risk of heart attack and stroke and associated deaths by 30%. In the end, the drug reduced that risk only by 15%. The main advantage of the new treatment is that it is 15% more effective than statins in reducing the heart attack and stroke risk. The risk of dying from the conditions still remained relatively high.

Repatha is not an ordinary cholesterol-lowering drug. It was developed based on variations of a gene in real-world mutants. People with the PCSK9 gene variant have very low cholesterol levels and reduced heart attack risk.

Before the drug’s release, CVS Caremark estimated that the new drug would cost America’s healthcare system around $200 billion. In 2016, however, Repatha didn’t exceed $140 million in global sales. Another cholesterol-lowering drug, Praluent, sold for just $116 million globally. The results may be due to the fact both therapies are administered through injections.

Cholesterol-Lowering Effect Less Dramatic than Expected

Researchers had expected that the LDL reduction triggered by Repatha would have driven a 31% reduction in strokes and heart attacks. Instead, it resulted in just a 15% reduction.

The new drug, though, lowered heart attack risk by 27%, stroke risk by 21%, and the risk of having a heart bypass procedure or a stent by 22%. Yet, when it came to hospitalizations for chest pain, the drug showed no improvement, trials showed.

Researchers noted that chest pain rates should no longer be included in such clinical trials as blood tests can show if a patient with chest pain is having a heart attack or should be given a stent. What’s more, many patients who land in a hospital with chest pain are diagnosed with acid reflux.

You’re not going to intervene on heartburn,

said the chief of Amgen’s R&D division, Sean Harper.

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