Patients who can’t tolerate statins could try bempedoic acid, a cholesterol-lowering drug instead.
In February 2020, the safety and effectiveness of this oral medication was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Bempedoic acid, like statins, blocks an enzyme called ATP-citrate lyase that our body uses for producing cholesterol.
This once daily pill can be taken along with patients’ diet and existing treatments or as an alternative to statins for patients who have a bad reaction to statins or interactions with other drugs.
It also reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in contrast to people taking statins who continue to have elevated levels of this bad cholesterol.
Professor Kausik Ray, the study’s first author, said:
“We know that reducing your cholesterol levels is key to cutting the risk of heart attack and stroke, particularly if you already have established heart disease.
Our latest study shows that bempedoic acid could be another addition to the arsenal of cholesterol-lowering treatments available to patients.
What we have is a new class of drug that could be given to patients who are already taking statins and could help them to further reduce their cholesterol levels and thus potentially cut their risk of heart attacks and strokes.”
According to The World Health Organization (WHO), 17.9 million lives are taken by cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) each year globally.
Heart disease is responsible for 840,768 deaths in the United States, accounting for one in every three deaths each year.
High cholesterol level is a risk factor for CVD as accumulation of LDL hardens the arteries and blocks the blood flow which can lead to heart attack and stroke.
Statins are prescribed to reduce cholesterol levels especially in patients at high risk of heart attack or stroke but like most drugs it has side effects.
Researchers believe that bempedoic acid, unlike statins, only works in the liver and it is not able to enter the muscles.
Professor Ray said:
“One of the key advantages of bempedoic acid is supposed to be that it shouldn’t cause the muscle side effects reported by some statins users, as it taken up by the liver and needs to be converted into its active form via an enzyme only found in the liver.
Once converted to the active form the drug cannot leave the liver, so it can’t enter muscles and hence could be of considerable advantage for some.
It could be an option for patients who are unable to tolerate statins at higher doses, or at all.
Our genetic studies suggest that the benefit on prevention of heart disease and strokes in ongoing trials should be identical to that achieved through statins.”
About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (Ray et al., 2019).