While diet guides and medical textbooks aimed at the general reader aim to lower cholesterol, there is a difference, with total cholesterol, between 'good' and 'bad' cholesterol. Total cholesterol
is a measure of the total amount of cholesterol in the blood. This includes low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good”) cholesterol. LDL particles pose a risk
for cardiovascular disease when they invade the endothelium and become oxidized.
The new drug works on LDL. It is called evolocumab and it functions by changing the way the liver works to also cut bad cholesterol. Evolocumab is an antibody and it targets a protein in the liver with the name PCSK9 (proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9). It protects the liver by removing bad cholesterol out of the blood and breaking it down. PCSK9 is a protein that targets LDL receptors for degradation and thereby reduces the liver's ability to remove LDL from the blood. By inhibiting this, the liver works more effectively. The drug is manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Amgen.
Speaking with the BBC
, following trials, the lead scientist behind the new study Professor Peter Sever, who works at Imperial College London, said: "It is much more effective than statins", adding: "The end result was cholesterol levels came down and down and down and we've seen cholesterol levels lower than we have ever seen before in the practice of medicine."
In the research paper, the scientists show how one heart attack or stroke was prevented for every 74 patients taking the drug in the two-year trial. The trail showed the drug lowered LDL cholesterol levels to an average of 30 miligrams per deciliter and reduced the risk of cardiovascular events for patients with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. The full results are published in
the New England Journal of Medicine
("Evolocumab and Clinical Outcomes in Patients with Cardiovascular Disease").
In related news
, another drug called cyclodextrin, as reported by Digital Journal last year, has demonstrated it can remove cholesterol deposits in mice that had been fed a high-fat diet. The drug is pending human trials.