“In my lifetime, I’ve gotten to see three broad eras of preventative cardiology. In the first, we recognized the importance of diet, exercise and smoking cessation. In the second, we saw the tremendous value of lipid-lowering drugs such as statins. Now, we’re cracking the door open on the third era.” – Dr Ridker, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston
Heart attacks now claim 600,000 lives in America every year. This is 1 in 4 premature deaths and the leading cause of preventable death in the world.
Thankfully, a new breakthrough could reduce that number by a quarter, potentially saving 150,000 lives every year.
Scientists have even gone as far as hailing is as the start of “a new era of therapeutics”. These are medicines that work in a completely different way to existing treatments. Along with lowering heart attacks, it’s hoped the new drug could halve deaths from cancer and halve cases of arthritis.
3 Health Problems from 1 Cause
The reason is because all three health problems are linked to the same cause: Inflammation. By reducing this inflammation, doctors believe the body can be protected against a number of health problems.
The drug is called “canakinumab”. Once fully available, it will be injected every three months. In a four year study of 10,000 heart attack victims, canakinumab was found to reduce heart attacks by 24 percent. These findings were presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Barcelona, the world’s biggest gathering of heart experts.
“These findings represent the endgame of more than two decades of research, stemming from a critical observation: Half of heart attacks occur in people who do not have high cholesterol. For the first time, we’ve been able to definitively show that lowering inflammation independent of cholesterol reduces cardiovascular risk,” – Dr Ridker, from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
When will the treatment be available?
The new treatment is expected to cost around $57,000 annually. However, prices are expected to tumble once it is widely adopted in replacement of cholesterol lowering medications. Money would also be saved from not having to perform heart bypass operations.
Novartis, who produces canakinumab is now in the process of applying for a licence so it can be administered by doctors to treat heart attacks. It is expected to be widely available soon after that.
A new era in treating heart attacks
Until now, cholesterol lowering drugs have been promoted as the best solution to preventing a heart attack. However, as the new research reveals, lowering cholesterol alone is not enough.
It is expected that the new drug will be given to patients at the same time as statins, to lower both cholesterol and inflammation. This “twin attack” could dramatically lower the number of heart attack victims every year.
“These exciting and long-awaited trial results finally confirm that ongoing inflammation contributes to risk of heart disease, and could help save lives. The findings suggest that existing anti-inflammatory drugs, such as canakinumab, could be given along with cholesterol-lowering drugs to treat survivors and further reduce their risk of another heart attack.” – Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation
Disclaimer – Statements made in this article have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA. You should never make changes to your medication without speaking to your doctor. The information provided is not a replacement for professional medical advice. The study results reported are not typical results and personal experience may vary.