A representational image of medicine can be seen. — Pixabay/File
A representational image of medicine can be seen. — Pixabay/File

A new study showed Saturday that those people using statins for cutting down high levels of LDL or bad cholesterol may use an alternative having fewer side effects to lower the risk of death by cardiovascular diseases. 

The study published in the journal JAMA and also presented at the American Diabetes Association’s annual meeting showed a significant 39% reduction in heart disease deaths and heart attacks using bempedoic acid.

The lead author and chief academic officer of the Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute at the Cleveland Clinic Dr Steven Nissen, said: “I hope this will be a wake-up call for patients and physicians.”

Nissen noted: “Right now, fewer than half the people who should be prescribed a cholesterol-lowering medication because of heart disease risk are getting it. That needs to change.”

“Treating people who have risk factors before their first cardiovascular event would have large benefits, not just in preventing complications but also in preventing deaths,” he said.

What are healthy levels of cholesterol?

Statin is considered effective in treating high levels of cholesterol, however, its alternative Bempedoic acid, is not as effective as statins. The acid was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2020.

Despite the effectiveness of statins, the study published in JAMA Network Open Recent research found that about 20% of people at high risk for heart disease refuse to take statins when prescribed by their doctor.

Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) is the type of cholesterol that helps in the building of fatty deposits in the arteries, raising the risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke.

The optimal level of total cholesterol for an adult is about 150mg/dL with LDL below 100 mg/dL, according to American Heart Association.

In the new research, Nissen and his team focused on participants never diagnosed with heart diseases but were exposed to the risk because of high LDL, diabetes and hypertension.

Side effects of bempedoic acid

While bempedoic acid may not cause as many muscle-related symptoms, it is more expensive than generic statins, Dr Druv S. Kazi, a cardiologist, noted in an editorial accompanying the JAMA study.

“Patients are likely to face substantially higher out-of-pocket costs for bempedoic acid than for a generic statin,” Kazi wrote.

Dr Marc Eisenberg, a cardiologist and an associate professor of medicine at Columbia University’s Vegelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, said: “Statins should still be offered and tried as a first-line therapy.”

“While the study is well designed, we still need more studies,” Dr Eisenberg said who was not involved in the study.  


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