Researchers have discovered a drug that supercharges the effect of statins and returns adult blood chemistry to the levels of a baby.
Alirocumab is being hailed as a significant weapon against heart attacks and strokes after a global study showed it all but eliminates harmful blood fats in more than a third of people already taking statins.
A global study of more than 2,000 patients showed that more than a third of those given the drug saw their level of fats fall to a baby’s.
“Alirocumab, when used alongside a statin, will dramatically lower cholesterol,” said lead researcher Professor Kausik Ray.
“Around 40 per cent of people who took it saw their levels reduce to that of a newborn.”
The medication is dubbed the Pac-Man drug because, like in the video game, it “gobbles up” a protein and allows the body to get rid of bad cholesterol more effectively, Prof Ray said. It could eventually be taken as a self-administered injection.
A total of 2,338 patients who had suffered a heart attack, stroke or who were at high risk of raised cholesterol took part in the trial.
Of those, 788 were given a placebo and 1,550 Alirocumab and a statin.
Of the 1,550, 562 saw their level of bad cholesterol fall to less than a baby’s level within a year.
Prof Ray, of St George’s Hospital, south London, said: “It is the biggest reduction we’ve had since statins were introduced.
“It’s really exciting to have a treatment that can lower LDL cholesterol in these high-risk groups.
“For these people that can’t lower their cholesterol but are at very high risk, we’ve had really weak treatments and thought, what do we do?
“They’ve had a heart attack, a bypass, or they can’t tolerate this or that, and their cholesterol is still bad despite everything.
“So in these selected individuals we are going to get a therapeutic choice.”
Statins can reduce LDL cholesterol by up to 50 per cent and this drug reduced it by a further 50 per cent.
The drug was injected bi-monthly by participants during the trial.
Prof Ray said: “It is likely to reduce your risk of heart disease as it will lower LDL cholesterol; however, the risk isn’t going to be abolished.
“People are not going to be immortal.”