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New Drug May Safely Boost 'Good' Cholesterol

Anacetrapib Doubles HDL, Lowers LDL, While Hitting Safety Goals
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Nov. 17, 2010 (Chicago) -- An experimental pill that boosts levels of "good" HDL cholesterol has cleared a major safety hurdle, renewing hopes of fighting heart disease in a new way.

Although the study of the drug, anacetrapib, was designed to look primarily at its safety, researchers say they were stunned by its dramatic effects on cholesterol levels.

"Our jaws dropped when we saw the 138% increase in HDL [over placebo]. And our jaws dropped even more when LDL went down by 40%," compared with placebo, says study leader Christopher P. Cannon, MD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

"This is an unprecedented change" in HDL levels, he tells WebMD.

The 18-month study enrolled more than 1,600 heart disease patients who were on statin drugs.

Importantly, anacetrapib did not appear to raise the risk of heart attacks or death from heart disease, major complications that halted development of its cousin torcetrapib, Cannon says.

Larger Study of HDL Booster Planned

Nevertheless, as studies of torcetrapib show, improving HDL cholesterol does not necessarily translate into better outcomes.

No firm conclusions about anacetrapib's effectiveness in fighting heart disease can be drawn until results of a 30,000-patient trial set to start next year are in -- and that could take up to four years, doctors say.

The new findings were reported here at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Scientific Sessions 2010 and simultaneously published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.

Other doctors here were also encouraged by the results, but reiterated that these are still the early days.

AHA spokesman Robert Eckel, MD of the University of Colorado in Denver tells WebMD, "These are magnificent results. The HDL effect is dramatic and the LDL effect is greater than we thought it would be."

Although the trial focused on safety, "there was a strong signal" of effectiveness as well, says Eckel, who was not involved with the study.

"However, we have to await the results of the outcomes trial," he says.

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Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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