A NEW cholesterol-lowering drug with fewer side effects than statins could be used to help treat patients at risk of a heart attack or stroke.
The medication could be an option for people who are unable to tolerate statins at higher doses, or at all, say scientists.
Too much bad cholesterol in the blood can clog blood vessels and increase the chance of heart attack and strokes.
But statins can cause muscle pain and other unwanted effects when mixed with other drugs.
Now research at Imperial College London has found bempedoic acid works in a similar way and can be safely added to patients’ existing drug regimes without producing those side-effects.
Bempedoic acid is absorbed by the liver but does not leave it — so it cannot travel to the muscles and affect them. In the same way as statins, it inhibits the body’s ability to create the building blocks of cholesterol by obstructing a key enzyme. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, randomly chose 2,230 patients with high cholesterol levels to receive either the new treatment or a placebo for one year.
After three months of treatment, researchers found that bempedoic acid reduced patients’ bad cholesterol levels by an average of 18.1 per cent compared to the placebo group.
Also, the treatment was effective regardless of the patient’s existing cholesterol-lowering treatment, and was shown to be well tolerated.
Lead author Prof Kausik Ray, from the college’s School of Public Health, said: ‘We know that reducing your cholesterol levels is key to cutting the risk of heart attack and stroke, particularly if you already have established heart disease. Our latest study shows that bempedoic acid could be another addition to the arsenal of cholesterol-lowering treatments available to patients.’