New Cholesterol Drug Gets FDA Panel Recommendation To Help Prevent Heart Attacks

On Tuesday, a new cholesterol drug was recommended by a FDA panel for approval that could be a more powerful solution for preventing heart attacks. Designed to be injected every two weeks, the drug Praluent from Sanofi SA and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., could be more potent with fewer side effects than existing prescribed drugs. Its approval could also represent the start of a new class of drugs introduced in decades that could significantly decrease your cholesterol, which is the leading cause of health disease.

Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for men and women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent, with one in four Americans dying from it every year. Key risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking. Those with diabetes, poor diet, excessive alcohol use, obesity, and physical inactivity put you higher at risk.

Statins, the most common cholesterol-lowering medication prescribed today, was first introduced into the market in 1987. In the United States, there are currently seven statins available, which include Zocor, Lipitor, and Crestor. For most people, the treatment works and can lower bad cholesterol by up to 50 percent, according to CBS News.

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But there are millions who can't tolerate their side effects of muscle pain and weakness, which shows up in 10 to 25 percent of users. That's where the new cholesterol drugs step in. During clinical trials, participants reported no increase in muscle pain after taking the drugs for several months. Another group that stands to benefit from the new cholesterol drugs are those whose cholesterol levels continue to remain high even with the use of statins. According to CNN, this group of people make up 1 in 500 people with high cholesterol and have a genetic predisposition to be more resistant to statin use.

Should they be approved, the drugs will cost you a good amount of money — $10,000 a year by CBS News' estimates. And the drugs have not yet proven to prevent heart attacks or strokes. But they could significantly alter how we treat high cholesterol in this country and that time might be here sooner than you think. According to CNN, the FDA will likely approve the cholesterol drug. The same advisory committee is set to discuss Repatha, a similar medication from Amgen Inc., on Wednesday.

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