If the results pan out in future research, "we would have a whole new way of fighting heart disease," says researcher Jean-Claude Tardif, MD, director of research and a professor of medicine at the Montreal Heart Institute in Canada.
The drug, known as succinobucol, "has the potential to change the practice of cardiovascular medicine," he tells WebMD.
Drug Targets Underlying Processes
Succinobucol, on the other hand, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that target two underlying processes -- oxidative stress and inflammation -- that can play a role in heart disease. (Oxidative stress is where the body essentially has too many free radicals, which are waste products produced by the chemical reactions in the body.)
Diabetes Risk Slashed, Too
The new study, presented here at the American College of Cardiology’s annual meeting, was designed to see if adding succinobucol to standard drug therapy would reduce heart attacks and death among patients with heart disease.
The researchers studied 6,144 people at high risk of future health problems due to unstable angina (chest pain) or a previous heart attack. Almost all were already taking aspirin as well as statin drugs, ACE inhibitors, and beta-blockers to slow the heart rate and boost the heart's pumping ability.
About half were also given a succinobucol pill once a day and the rest, a placebo.
Over the next two years, those on succinobucol were 19% less likely to die from heart disease, have a heart attack, or die than those on placebo.
Also, only 1.6% of those taking the drug developed diabetes vs. 4.2% on placebo.
Succinobucol was extremely safe, with diarrhea being the most frequent side effect, Tardif says.
Drug to Be Used in Combo
Tardif stresses that the new drug would be given on top of standard heart medications.
The Cleveland Clinic’s E. Murat Tuzcu, MD, chairman of the committee that decided which studies to highlight at the meeting, says there is still more work to be done.
But if the findings are confirmed, succinobucol "will have a big impact in fighting atherosclerosis," he tells WebMD.