New Drug Shows Promise in Lowering Heart Attack Risk

How far will patients go to lower their chances for heart attack when they’re already at high risk? We may find out soon enough with the appearance of a new risk-reducing heart drug.

One study shows that the drug Praluent could lower patients’ risk moderately. But that effect does come at a pretty high cost.

This past Saturday, the study’s authors released their findings at a conference for the American College of Cardiology.

ABC News reported that the study’s researchers zeroed in on bad LDL cholesterol for their research. To do so, they looked at almost 19,000 patients who had high LDL levels—at least above 70.

After 3 years of using Praluent alongside their current medication, the Praluent group did improve their risk for heart attack or death. In fact, their risk was reduced by about 15 percent, according to the ABC News report.

However, some experts might consider that result miniscule compared to the time and cost. Still, the number may be just enough to convince some patients—and their doctors—that Praluent is the way to go.

Why It’s Important

People who are trying to lower their risk of a heart attack already have a few options. So why are researchers looking further into drugs like Praluent?

First, since heart disease is so prevalent in America, researchers should always be looking for ways to improve that situation. That includes helping patients already experiencing heart problems.

Then, once a person has had one or more serious heart events, they may have a harder time reducing their risk with usual treatments.

In the beginning, doctors might recommend diet, exercise and a healthy lifestyle to offset risks that patients have. Once their risk heightens, patients will likely need a stronger therapy, and many go on to take a type of drug called a statin.

Statins work to lower LDL cholesterol while raising the HDL cholesterol. To do so, the drugs interfere with production of cholesterol in the liver, slowing down the buildup of plaque in the arteries.

Like any other drug, statins do have some side effects. These can include muscle or neurological problems, and they’re not recommended for those who are pregnant or have liver disease.

In addition, the American Heart Association recognizes that some people don’t respond well to their statin medication. These groups need a new, effective medicine to turn to instead.

Price is a problem.

While this new study has shown a moderate result for heart patients, many still can’t afford the medication. ABC News stated that the drug has cost in the $14,000-range so far.

However, the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, an organization which reviews the value and efficiency of drugs, posted an update on Praluent’s price.

Now, the non-profit expects the range to fall between $4500 to $8000 per year for heart patients most at risk. For others who at least meet the requirements as those in the above study, the cost should be between $2300 to $4300 per year.

Yes, the cost is still pricey, but these new ranges are significantly lowered. In their update, the institute remained confident that this new pricing structure will help the drug serve more patients.

America’s Heart Problem

Because of the high number of Americans at risk for heart disease, Praluent has the potential to reach hundreds of thousands.

The drug won’t serve everyone, especially at the beginning. But it may prove itself a welcome addition for those who have the highest heart risk.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 out of every 4 deaths in America are from heart disease.

Of those, over half die each year from coronary artery disease, the type that’s caused by plaque buildup in the arteries.

Then, over 700,000 people experience a heart attack every year, and many do so for the first time.

Both patients and doctors need to take action to reduce these astounding numbers. People who are the most at risk should seek treatment as well as reduce lifestyle risk factors.

People who are at risk include: those who are overweight or diabetic and those who have an unhealthy diet, little physical activity or excessive alcohol use.

Praluent isn’t a cure-all drug, but it could help reduce heart attacks and death in high-risk patients. While they do have many options available, including statin medications, some need more help or another option altogether. For now, though, many patients will have to rely on insurance to cover the cost.