Science presents a new reason to get over that fear of needles. A recent study found that an injection of experimental drug REGN727 reduces LDL (“bad”) cholesterol up to 72% in conjunction with Lipitor.
For 12 weeks, 180 people with LDL levels of at least 100 mg/dL took Lipitor and were injected with Regeneron’s antibody REGN727 or a placebo. LDL levels dropped by 40% in those injected with 50 milligrams of the drug once every two weeks, 64% in those injected with 100 milligrams every two weeks, and 72% in those injected with 150 milligrams every two weeks.
In contrast, LDL levels dropped only 5% in people injected with the placebo.
According to lead researcher James McKenney, chief executive officer of National Clinical Research in Richmond, VA, about 1 in 3 people with high LDL levels is resistant to statins like Lipitor alone. This leaves them at risk for a heart attack if they don't get additional treatment.
“About 5 to 10 percent of people can’t tolerate stains at all, and more can’t tolerate higher doses,” said Dr. Evans Stein, director of the Metabolic and Atherosclerosis Research Center in Cincinnati and lead author of the drug trials. “[REGN727 is] still early in development, but for them this is potentially a most promising alternative.”
REGN727 inhibits a protein called PCSK9, which was found to be genetically linked to LDL cholesterol in 2006, according to Regeneron’s website. This inhibition clears LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream.
Research participants suffered side effects including mild infections and redness and soreness where the injection was given. One person experienced a severe rash accompanied by diarrhea. Six people stopped treatment due to side effects.
"This is a 'wow' study," says heart specialist Rick Nishimura, MD, of the Mayo Clinic. "It takes us to a whole new level of cholesterol control and could be a game changer in the future."
Read more about REGN727 in Regeneron's news release.
Others aren’t so sure.
“Even though this is very exciting, and perhaps a real breakthrough, at this point it’s premature to conclude that this drug will increase survival or improve quality of life,” says Dr. Mario J. Garcia, chief of cardiology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.