The fight against cholesterol is all set to get a new weapon. A new class of injectable drugs which has shown to dramatically lower cholesterol has been recommended by the FDA advisory panel and could hit the market within 2 years.
In the medical world, this is a pretty big deal because not only are these drugs effective and low on side-effects, but are also the first line of medication to be developed for lowering LDL or bad cholesterol in nearly 3 decades.
The Problem With Statins
Seven kinds of statins are available since the first was approved in 1987.
Statins, such as Lipitor, Mevacor, Crestor and Zocor are very popular and prescribed to about a 20% of Indians with heart diseases.
The issue with statins is that sometimes people with very high cholesterol don’t respond to these medications or experience side effects. And the side effects are significant: muscle pain, memory loss and a considerable risk of diabetes in the long run.
With heart disease being the number one killer in the world, the goal of the Pharma industry for long has been to lower cholesterol without any serious long term side effects. This is what Sanofi’s new class of drugs is all about.
How the Drug Works
The new drug works in a completely different way from statins.
As opposed to statins, this medication is injected twice a month and are not for everybody. These are for people who have a very high risk of heart disease and haven’t been able to lower their bad cholesterol enough even on statins. In these studies, this drug got down the bad cholesterol by 60% , which is huge.
The drug works by blocking a certain protein in the liver improving the liver’s ability to throw LDL or bad cholesterol out of the body.
The product is one of two major new cholesterol-reducing drugs set to enter the market by 2017.
This drug interferes with the enzyme PCSK9 in the liver to lower the bad cholesterol. But there are some genetic diseases in which this particular enzyme is already very low. Till now we don’t what kind of an effect this drug will have in that condition.
The drug has to be injected twice a month, definitely not as easy as popping a pill.
One big question remains : while the drugs lower cholesterol, it’s not been shown whether they reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke the way statins do.
The biggest drawback, it costs a bomb. Perhaps to the tune of Rs 50,000 per month.