An experimental cholesterol-lowering drug from a new class of medications focused on taking a bite out of the billion-dollar statin market has outperformed Zetia, the most widely used alternative to statins on the market, according to a clinical trial presented at the American Heart Association annual meeting.
Alirocumab drove down LDL, or bad, cholesterol levels in study participants by 45 percent, compared to just 14.6 percent in patients who were treated with Zetia. The main drawback is that alirocumab is administered by injection once every two weeks, while Zetia and statins are take by mouth in the form of a pill.
Alirocumab, and other experimental drugs in the PCSK9 inhibitor class of cholesterol-lowering medications aimed at hitting the market in the months to come, would offer new hope for patients with high cholesterol who cannot tolerate statin side effects. Statins, such as the widely prescribed Lipitor, have been linked to muscle injury and liver damage, both of which can be life threatening. Statins can also increase blood sugar levels putting users at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
While new cardiovascular guidelines recommend expanding the indication of statin drugs, many medical experts are skeptical because so many people cannot tolerate them. Furthermore, makers of statin drugs are facing a litany of lawsuits for withholding information about side effects, in particular the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Alirocumab is a genetically designed antibiody that works by improving the removal of LDL cholesterol from the blood by blocking a protein that normally stops the body from getting rid of LDL. In clinical trials, 97 percent of participants who were unable to tolerate statin side effects were able to tolerate alirocumab.