It is axiomatic that too much of the bad sort of cholesterol often leads to cardiovascular disease. Millions of people at risk for heart attacks and strokes take daily medication, known as statins, to lower their bad cholesterol, which causes plaque buildup in the arteries. The plaque can block blood flow, causing a heart attack, or rupture and break off, causing a blood clot that in turn causes a stroke.
Time Magazine recently reported on a new class of drugs that promises to lower bad cholesterol to levels that hitherto have been unprecedented, to the level found in infants. These drugs are called PCSK9 inhibitors. They work “by pumping out more LDL cholesterol receptors on liver cells; these can pull cholesterol out of the blood like sponges and keep vessels clear of the artery-clogging fats.” The Food and Drug Administration is in the process of approving these drugs for clinical use.
The fact that the FDA is planning to approve the drugs without monitoring the long-term side effects on heart patients is a testament to its potential for warding off cardiovascular disease. The first group of people who will be prescribed the drug will, in effect, be beta test subjects for side effects.
The initial prescription of the drugs will be for people who have a genetic mutation that suppresses LDL cholesterol inhibitors and thus have far higher cholesterol than most people. If everything turns out well the drugs will, in short order, be made available to the large heart disease population. The drugs have the potential to change the way doctors treat heart disease, stopping heart attacks and strokes years before they occur.
Currently, the drug is available only in injectable form, with injections being required every 2-4 weeks. CVS officials estimate that the cost for a year of treatment could range from $7000- $12,000. The cost is bound to decrease, however, as more patients use the drug.
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