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Alternative to statins to be trialled by the NHS

A new drug to reduce cholesterol will undergo a large-scale clinical trial, NHS England has announced

A new drug to reduce LDL (i.e. 'bad') cholesterol will undergo a large-scale clinical trial, NHS England has announced.

The drug, inclisiran, is taken as a twice-yearly injection, and could save as many as 30,000 lives over the course of the next decade. Trials presented at the European Society of Cardiology showed the drug could cut bad cholesterol levels in half within weeks. According to experts, the medicine is much easier than statins to take long-term, as it requires infrequent administration compared to the pills.

‘This as a really exciting announcement that changes the way we bring new medicines to patients earlier and also propel the NHS and the UK as a world leader in this sort of clinical research,’ said Dr Riyaz Patel, Associate Professor and Consultant Cardiologist, Clinical lead for the CVD Prevention Service, Barts Health NHS Trust.

‘Inclisiran is a new class of drug that works in a neat way to stop the production of a molecule (PCSK9) to lower bad cholesterol (LDL-C) levels in the blood. Previous studies have shown it can safely reduce this type of cholesterol by over 50%, with very few side effects. A big advantage is that as it is taken very infrequently, it will be much easier for patients to take the medicine long term.’

NHS patients in England who have not had a heart attack or stroke but are at high risk of having one will be invited to take part in the trial, with around 40,000 people eligible. Inclisiran will also be assessed for more routine use next year based on evidence from previous trials.

‘We’re excited to see promising research that could provide a new treatment to help people avoid a life-shattering stroke. High cholesterol is one of the biggest causes of stroke and many people are treated with statins to reduce their risk. However, statins don’t remove the risk of stroke for everyone,’ said Dr Richard Francis, Head of Research, the Stroke Association.

‘This new medication, inclisiran, shows promise in reducing damaging levels of cholesterol. This announcement of a collaborative approach provides hope that, if the treatment does work, those that need it, can get it as soon as possible.’