HealthWatch: Cholesterol Drug Breakthrough: How Low Can You Go?

CLEVELAND, Ohio. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — About one in four adults aged 40 and older takes a cholesterol-lowering statin. These meds have been game changers for people with high cholesterol. Research has shown statins can reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death in high-risk patients. But adding another drug to the mix might offer even bigger benefits.  
 Sixty-one-year-old Carol Hrvatin has been battling high cholesterol for years.
“Probably in my 40’s, I started noticing I had some high cholesterol,” Hrvatin told Ivanhoe.
It caught up with her. The retired schoolteacher had a heart attack six years ago. Hrvatin now takes Repatha, an injectable medicine to lower her cholesterol. A new study found using this drug along with a statin can significantly lower LDL or bad cholesterol levels. 
 “To a level that has not really been achieved in any substantial clinical trial,” detailed Steve Nissen, M.D., the chairman of cardiovascular medicine at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. 
Researchers studied 968 patients. Some took a statin and some a statin plus Repatha. After 18 months, the statin-only group had an average LDL of 93. Those who took both medicines: 36.6 — the lowest level ever observed in a clinical study. The statin patients had no change in the amount of plaque in their coronary arteries, but 64 percent of patients who took both drugs had less plaque. Those with the lowest LDL levels had the most significant improvement. 
Dr. Nissen said, “You know we used to say you can’t be too rich or too thin, we now say, you can’t be too rich, too thin, or have too low of a cholesterol level.” 
This study could lead to new guidelines pushing lower cholesterol levels. Hrvatin’s LDL levels went from 137 before Repatha to 65 after and it could also do the same for millions. 
Right now, even the strictest guidelines suggest LDL levels should be 70 or less, but Dr. Nissen said this study could lead to much lower recommendations. The researchers say there were no safety issues associated with the extremely low cholesterol levels they observed in the study. Repatha is typically injected once or twice a month. 
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Julie Marks, Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.
Cholesterol is a wax-like substance that is found in your blood. While your body needs it to build healthy cells, if your cholesterol levels are too high it can cause heart disease and lead to other problems. Having high cholesterol causes you to develop fatty tissue in your blood vessels. This makes it difficult for blood to flow through them, and if your heart cannot get enough oxygen from your blood, it increases the risk of heart attack. Also, decreased blood flow to your brain can result in a stroke. High cholesterol can be inherited, but it’s usually the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices, meaning it is treatable and preventable. A healthy diet and regular exercise can to reduce it.
Knowing your risks and working with your doctor to develop a plan is most important. You need to determine your risks and work on improving your heart health. In all cases, lifestyle changes are important to reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke. In some cases, cholesterol-lowering statin medicines may also be beneficial. Learn how to make dietary changes; work on improving your rate of physical activity. Take medication as instructed to make sure it’s working for you in the best way possible. Exposure to tobacco could affect your treatment, so talk to your doctor about working on that. It’s also important to know which fats affect you directly. 
Repatha is an injectable medicine that is an antibody. It helps the liver clear LDL by limiting the actions of PCSK9, a protein involved in the amount of LDL in your blood. As a result, less PCSK9 means less LDL in your body. Most people take statins for lowering cholesterol, which block a particular enzyme resulting in less LDL. LDLs also increase the liver’s ability to break down cholesterol that’s already in your blood. So using both of these products together has proven to dramatically lower LDL, even more so than just using statins by themselves. This could lead to guidelines that are much lower recommendations of where healthy levels of LDL should be.
Andrea Pacetti 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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