Drug proven to prevent, reduce heart disease

Published: Nov. 16, 2016 at 6:53 PM CST
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For the first time, a new drug has been proven to shrink plaque that is clogging arteries, potentially giving a way to undo some of the damage of heart disease.

Mayo Clinic in Eau Claire along with hospitals all across the nation have been using the cholesterol lowering drug Repatha that was approved by the FDA back in August of 2015.

New medical results show the drug doesn't only prevent, but reduce plaque buildup.

“We've seen dramatic reductions in cholesterol, and what this new study adds, is good evidence that we can actually make plaques, hardening of the arteries inside the coronary arteries, get smaller in time through an aggressive drug treatment,” says Dr. Andrew Calvin, Cardiologist at Mayo Clinic Health Systems.

Dr. Calvin, says the drug also helps to undo some of the damages associated with heart disease.

“These newer drugs give us reduction in cholesterol levels and it's the biggest reduction in plaque sizes that we've ever seen. The question is whether the reduction and plaque size correlates to outcomes that are important to our patients. Will they have another heart attack? Will they have a stroke? That's what we're waiting very anxiously to find out. While the results so far are promising, it's not really enough to dramatically change clinical practice,” says Dr. Calvin.

The catch, it's very expensive. Consumers paying out of pocket can expect to spend an average of $14,000 a year, which is drastically more than most cholesterol prescriptions.

Dr. Tom Sandager with Marshfield Clinic says if the prescription actually does reverse bad cholesterol and heart disease, it may be worth it.

“We have statin medicines that have become very inexpensive. Someone can treat themselves for probably $50 a year and that also reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and death. I think the idea of reversing coronary disease is very attractive, and this is fairly early at this point, we just need to see if this is the way it sounds and it can reverse things, and then the cost may not be so significant,” says Dr. Sandager.

“Until we have those studies we won't really be ready to use this drug widely, but the preliminary results are very encouraging,” says Dr. Calvin.

It's also important to note the prescription isn't a pill, but an injection, patents can take about every two weeks, similar to an insulin injection.