Statin is popularly prescribed for individuals with high cholesterol levels but it cannot get everyone's LDL down. Some cannot also take this drug because of the side effects.
A new class of cholesterol-lowering drugs, however, could soon become available for people who are not able to take statins as an advisory committee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will meet on Tuesday and Monday to consider the approval of a new class of cholesterol-lowering drugs called PCSK9 inhibitors.
Studies have shown that the new drugs can lower bad cholesterol at extremely low levels. High LDL is associated with increased risks for heart diseases.
Experts said that the drugs, Amgen's evolocumab and Sanofi's alirocumab, lower LDL more than any other drugs that are currently available. Both don't cause side effects that some people experience when taking statins.
While statins come in pill form, the new drug is injectable and needs to be administered every two to four weeks. Statins can reduce bad cholesterol levels by 30 to 50 percent but PCSK9 inhibitors are more potent reducing LDL by as much as 60 percent. Doctors, however, may prescribe both of these drugs to lower LDL dramatically.
Once approved by health regulators, the drugs would be the first major class of cholesterol-lowering drugs since the introduction of statins more than two decades ago. Unfortunately, the drugs are likely to be very costly.
With its projected price of $10,000 per year, some claim that it could have significant effect on the costs of healthcare, which could lead to higher premiums. The price of statins, on the other hand, ranges from $11 to $200 albeit the drug has side effects.
Three years ago, health regulators updated labeling on statins to warn users about confusion, elevated blood sugar that could lead to Type 2 diabetes, memory loss and muscle weakness.
The new drugs could be used by those who can't tolerate the side effects of statins or cannot lower their LDL with statins alone. They may also help those who have inherited condition that causes them to have very high cholesterol levels.
"These drugs have gone from the bench to the bedside faster than almost any drugs in history. It's really a remarkable story," said Steven Nissen, from the Cleveland Clinic who helped test the new drugs. "They don't seem to cause muscle side effects that statins have, which is one of their principal advantages."
Photo: Andres Rueda | Flickr