New drug proven to reduce your risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke

A pioneering new drug has been clinically proven to reduce the chance of someone dying from a heart attack or stroke (WalesOnline, 2017).

Following a worldwide trial involving 27,500 high risk patients, evolocumab, also known as Repatha, was found to radically lower cholesterol levels. The study, which included scientists at Swansea University, found that evolocumab reduced the risks of heart attack and stroke by 27% and 21% respectively compared to cholesterol-lowering statin therapy. The British Heart Foundation said the findings were a “significant advance” in fighting the biggest killer in the world.

Around fifteen million people die each year from heart attacks or stroke.

In Wales an estimated 375,000 people live with cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease kills 4,500 men and 4.500 women each year, causing more than a quarter of all deaths in Wales. More than 2,500 people under the age of seventy five die from cardiovascular disease each year. The premature death rate is higher than in England. The total annual healthcare cost of cardiovascular disease in Wales is £446m.

The results of the study, which cost about $1bn and was paid for by the maker of the drug, Amgen, were published in The New England Journal of Medicine. They were presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology.

Sean Harper, executive vice president of research and development at Amgen, said “This is a game-changer for high-risk patients. Even though these patients were optimally treated with the latest therapies, they were still at high risk for an additional cardiac event. It’s remarkable to see such a large impact in reducing cardiac events given that this patient population was only on evolocumab for about two years.”

Professor Peter Sever, of Imperial College London, and a member of the study’s executive committee, said it was “probably the most important trial result of a cholesterol lowering drug in over 20 years”.

Statins such as Lipitor and Crestor are cheap and lower bad cholesterol, but some people can’t tolerate them or get enough help from them. But evolocumab is given as a shot once or twice a month and is part of a novel class of medicines that drop this cholesterol to “unprecedented levels”. The drug it has been designed to target a protein in the liver with the name PCSK9. It makes the organ better at taking bad cholesterol out of the blood and breaking it down. Evolocumab is thought to cost the NHS about £2,000 per year per patient where it is already being given to people who do not respond to statins.

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