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New Cholesterol-Lowering Drug Could Be Alternative For People Who Experience Side Effects From Statin

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The new drug, bempedoic acid, lowered LDL levels by 18 percent with fewer side effects than statin. Esperion Therapeutic is seeking FDA approval for the cholesterol-lowering drug.  ( Dmitry Bayer | Unsplash )

Statin is a widely popular drug prescribed by doctors to patients with high cholesterol levels in their blood. Unfortunately, the drug is associated with side effects.

Side Effects Of Statin Use

Statin can lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as the bad cholesterol, which contributes to fatty buildups in the arteries that elevates risk of stroke and heart attack.

Despite the drug's effectiveness in lowering LDL, many people stop taking statin because of its side effects. Between 10 and 15 percent of patients who take statin report adverse reactions to the drug, which include weakness, muscle pains, and cramps.

Patients who cannot take statins, however, may soon have an option. Researchers have tested a new drug that stops the body from creating the building blocks of cholesterol without the side effects associated with statin.

Lowers Cholesterol Levels Without Side Effects

In the trial, patients who took the new drug bempedoic acid saw their LDL levels drop by an average of 18 percent over the course of three months The new drug was also well tolerated.

"In this 52-week trial, bempedoic acid added to maximally tolerated statin therapy did not lead to a higher incidence of overall adverse events than placebo and led to significantly lower LDL cholesterol levels," study researcher Kausik Ray, from the Imperial College London's School of Public Health, and colleagues wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The treatment was also effective regardless if a patient was already on a cholesterol-lowering treatment. This means it could also be made available for people already taking statins who want to see additional benefit.

Jack Manley, one of the participants of the trial, has been taking Lipitor for years, but he suffered from severe leg cramps as a side effect of the medication.

Doctors lowered his dosage of Lipitor, but this did not bring down his cholesterol levels to where they should be. The new drug dropped his cholesterol levels sans the side effects.

How Bempedoic Acid Works

Ray said the new drug works in the same pathways as statins but in a different site. It works by blocking a key enzyme that the body uses to produce cholesterol.

"Overall, these latest studies show that not only is the treatment generally well-tolerated being comparable with placebo, and potentially safe over longer periods, but that when added to high intensity statin treatment it can help to further reduce LDL cholesterol levels," Ray said.

The trial was funded by Esperion Therapeutics, which seeks FDA approval for the drug.

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