New Drug May Safely Boost 'Good' Cholesterol
Anacetrapib Doubles HDL, Lowers LDL, While Hitting Safety Goals
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.
Statins Don't Help Everyone: Enter HDL Boosters
Although credited with making a substantial dent in heart disease, statin drugs that lower LDL cholesterol don’t help everyone: Some statin users have heart attacks anyway.