Study finds cholesterol-lowering drug may prevent heart disease

The PCSK9 inhibitor can dramatically lower cholesterol levels, but some worry that at more than $14,000 per year it is prohibitively priced for the average person.

By Amy Wallace

March 17 (UPI) -- New research shows the powerful cholesterol-lowering drug Repatha may be effective in significantly reducing a person's risk of heart attack or stroke.

Repatha, a PCSK9 inhibitor, dramatically lowers LDL, or bad cholesterol, in patients and was approved for sale by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2015. The drug is proving effective at lowering LDL cholesterol even for people already taking statin drugs.


However, Repatha is priced prohibitively expensive -- a one-year supply runs $14,523 -- and many insurance companies will not cover the drug without evidence it protects against heart attack and stroke in high risk patients.

The new study, which was presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology, evaluated 27,564 adults, 80 percent of whom had already had a heart attack, while the remaining 20 percent had pain in the legs or feet from narrowed arteries. All participants were taking inexpensive, cholesterol-lowering statins that were effective in providing an average LDL of 92, which is in range of optimal LDL of under 100.

Researchers had the participants continue with their statins while half were given injectable Repatha and the other half given a placebo.


The results showed participants taking Repatha along with their statin had an average LDL of 30, with one-quarter of the participants achieving an LDL of 19 or less.

Research showed a 27 percent decrease in the risk of heart attack, a 21 percent decrease in stroke, and a 22 percent decrease in the risk of cardiovascular revascularization.

The study also showed a 15 percent reduction in the risk of an extended major adverse cardiovascular event.

Amgen, the manufacturer of Repatha, funded and conducted the study and many experts question the potential for bias as a result, though the company points to their having analysis of the study data conducted independently as proof bias toward their own product is not reflected in the study.

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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