A newer cholesterol drug, used with older statin medicines, modestly lowered heart risks and deaths in a big study of heart attack survivors that might persuade insurers to cover the pricey treatment more often.
Results on the drug, Praluent (pronounced PRALL-yoo-ent), were announced at an American College of Cardiology conference in Florida. It's the first time a cholesterol-lowering drug has reduced deaths since statins such as Lipitor and Crestor came out decades ago.
"It's the ultimate outcome; it's what matters to patients," said study leader Philippe Gabriel Steg, M.D., of the Bichat Hospital in Paris.
But the benefit was small — 167 people would need to use Praluent (generic name alirocumab) for nearly three years to prevent a single death. "That's a high cost" that may still hinder its use, said one independent expert, Amit Khera, a preventive cardiologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and a spokesman for the American Heart Association.
The drug's makers, Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, sponsored the study and said they would work with insurers on pricing to get the medicine to those who need it the most.
Doctors focus on lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol to prevent heart problems. Statins are the main medicines for this, but some people can't tolerate or get enough help from them.
Praluent and a similar drug, Amgen's Repatha, work in a different way and lower cholesterol much more. Patients give themselves shots of the medicine once or twice a month.