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New study provides promising alternative for people with high cholesterol

Date: 12/31/2018

More than 100 million Americans over the age of 20 struggle with high cholesterol. Thirty-five million of these people have cholesterol levels so high they are at increased risk of heart disease. This presents a very real and widespread health concern for cardiologists and other healthcare providers.

Over the past several years, statins – drugs such as Lipitor, Crestor, and Zocor which help lower cholesterol – have helped many people maintain healthier lives. However, some patients don’t tolerate these medicines well, and their long-term use may cause other issues, including muscle pain. These effects have lead researchers to conduct an international, randomized controlled trial called Odyssey Outcomes to seek a better solution.

Alan Wiseman, MD, CM, FACC, FSCAI, interventional cardiologist and section head, Northern Light Cardiology, was one of the physicians who took part in Odyssey Outcomes, the results of which were recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Nearly 19,000 patients in 57 countries – 2,500 patients in the United States alone – took part in the trial. It tested the effects of Alirocumab, a new drug, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2015, introduced as a supplement for patients whose cholesterol could not be controlled through diet, exercise, and statins. Study results indicate that Alirocumab was able to lower LDL cholesterol and decrease the risk of a second heart attack and death compared to placebo.

“Mainers, especially, seem to be at increased risk of heart disease due to the high number of people who struggle to maintain healthy cholesterol levels,” says Dr. Wiseman. “Patients who have not been able to lower their LDL levels through a combination of FDA-approved drugs, healthy diet, and moderate exercise could very well see better results from Alirocumab. We are excited to see how our patients may benefit from this new option.”

One in 500 Americans have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol and are at risk of premature vascular disease. This is especially prevalent in Maine due to the French heritage of our population. It is important for people to talk to their primary care provider about whether and how often they should get their cholesterol levels checked.

Northern Light Cardiology will continue to take part in studies such as this to further improve healthcare options for the patients we serve right here in Maine.

Learn more about the Odyssey Outcomes study here.