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Sanofi’s Cholesterol Reducing Drug Continues to be Promising

Update Date: Sep 01, 2014 10:12 AM EDT

In July, French company Sanofi and its U.S. partner, Regeneron, announced that its new cholesterol drug was capable of reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is often dubbed the bad cholesterol. Now, more details from four of the nine trials revealed that the drug, alirocumab, might be able to cut the number of heart attack and stroke cases.

Alirocumab is an injectable drug that belongs to a new class of medicines called PCSK9 inhibitors, which work by preventing a protein from blocking the body from getting rid of the LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream. The new data came from an interim safety analysis where researchers examined the effects of the drug on patients' heart health. Even though the findings are not considered to be conclusive, the team found that people on alirocumab had a reduced risk of suffering from a combination of heart events, such as cardiac death, heart attack, stroke and chest pain that leads to hospitalization.

In this analysis, both groups of patients had been given the conventional anti-cholesterol statins. One group received the drug whereas the other received a placebo. Overall, 1.4 percent of the patients given alirocumab and 3.0 percent of the patients given a placebo experienced a major cardiovascular event. The drug also cut LDL by 50 to 60 percent after 24 weeks. Some of the side effects were a stuffy nose and upper respiratory tract infections.

"To have this result emerge so quickly in this study is very encouraging," said Dr. Jennifer Robinson, a cardiologist at the University of Iowa, who led the study, reported by the New York Times.

Sanofi's research head, Elias Zerhouni, told Reuters, "It has to be confirmed by the big outcomes study but it is the first scientific indication that there is something other than a statin that potentially shows you can get a reduction in risk."

Other companies, such as Amgen Inc., are currently manufacturing PCSK9 inhibitors as well. However, Sanofi and Regeneron are the first drug makers to release data regarding a reduction in heart risk on this new class of medicines.

The study, which is titled, Odyssey Long Term, is expected to finish early next year. The data from the four trials were presented at the European Society of Cardiology's annual meeting in Barcelona, Spain.

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