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New Drugs Effective in Halving Cholesterol Levels, Study

Update Date: Oct 03, 2013 11:01 AM EDT

Cholesterol is one of the most common chronic health issues people are diagnosed with. Due to the obesity epidemic caused by poor nutrition and a lack of exercise, people start to deal with cholesterol medications at a much earlier time. Around one in six Americans suffer from high cholesterol and unfortunately, not everyone can take statin medications to help maintain their levels. Due to the fact that statins are not effective for everyone, researchers attempted to create a new class of drugs that could help lower cholesterol. Now, according to the results from the first human trial conducted by Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, a new small interfering ribonucleic acid (siRNA) drug candidate was effective in lowering cholesterol.

For this study, the research team recruited 32 people who had mild or moderately high LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, which is considered to be the "bad" cholesterol. The participants were healthy and between 18 and 65-years-old. The team randomly assigned to volunteers to two groups. The first group received one of the six doses of the drug called ALN-PCS intravenously. The other group was given a placebo, which was normal saline. ALN-PCS works by prohibiting the production of protein, PCSK9, which is responsible for regulating blood cholesterol levels by destroying the receptors that would normally help clear LDL.

The researchers found that one dosage was capable of reducing LDL cholesterol levels by up to 57 percent. The average reduction was 40 percent when compared to people who received the placebo. Even though this was just the first human trial, the researchers are optimistic that this drug could be the answer for people who cannot take statins.

"These phase I results pave the way for RNA interference (RNAi) therapeutics as a potential treatment for high cholesterol", explained trial investigator Kevin Fitzgerald from Alnylam Pharmaceuticals who helped develop the new siRNA. "If successfully developed, this class of drugs could be an alternative for the one in five people who are resistant to statins, or be combined with statins to produce even greater effects for the many others for whom the current first line treatment does not lower cholesterol enough."

The study was published in The Lancet

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