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New Cholesterol Drug Failed to Save Lives

The experimental drug evacetrapib lowered bad cholesterol dramatically and raised beneficial HDL even more but failed to save lives for heart patients.

A study reported at the recent meeting of the American College of Cardiology had disappointing news. A drug with major effects on cholesterol failed to save lives. Cardiologists have been taught that lowering LDL cholesterol and raising HDL cholesterol is the path to preventing heart attacks, strokes and premature death. Could that approach be too simplistic?

What Is the Story on the Study?

Eli Lilly sponsored a study involving over 12,000 patients who were at high risk for cardiovascular complications. Roughly half were randomized to take an experimental drug called evacetrapib while the others were given a placebo. All the patients were also on standard medical therapy, which means that many were taking statins as well.

How Well Did Evacetrapib Work?

The new medicine was extremely effective at lowering bad LDL cholesterol, which went down by 37 percent on average. It was even better at raising good HDL cholesterol, which went up 130 percent. Virtually no medicines to date have been able to produce such spectacular changes in blood lipids.

That said, the study was a bust. The trial was ended prematurely because there were no differences in heart attacks, strokes or cardiovascular mortality between the two groups. These results have left many cardiologists wondering why a drug that changed cholesterol so effectively failed to save lives. It has underscored the need to look at survival and not simply at cholesterol levels when determining whether or not a drug should be approved and prescribed to potential heart patients.

American College of Cardiology, Chicago, April 2, 2016


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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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