Cholesterol-lowering statins can cause serious side effects in some patients — including muscle and liver damage. As a result, these patients must turn to other medications to lower levels of LDL cholesterol.
According to findings presented at the American Heart Association's annual meeting, patients who took alirocumab for 24 weeks had a 45 percent drop in their LDL cholesterol levels. Patients who took Zetia, on the other hand, had a decrease in LDL levels of just 14.6 percent.
"[Alirocumab] is a more potent and more effective lipid lowering drug, getting patients to a goal by a 10-fold higher amount," said Dr. Patrick Moriarty, director of clinical pharmacology at the University of Kansas Medical Center, according to Reuters. "It just blows [Zetia] away."
"Medications such as Zetia or alirocumab work differently than statins. Statins work by reducing production of cholesterol, whereas these other medications prohibit absorption and distribution of cholesterol throughout the body," said E. Lee Carter, RPh, Clinical Pharmacy Specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Prestonsbrug, Kentucky.
"Many patients cannot tolerate statins due to side effects, particularly muscle pain or weakness, which can be significant for a minority of patients. These alternative agents, in general, tend to be better tolerated and have relatively fewer side effects as compared to statins," Carter explained.
Although alirocumab performed better than Zetia in this study, it is a bit more of a hassle to administer. Alirocumab requires an injection once every two weeks, whereas Zetia and statins are oral medications.
According to Dr. Moriarty and team, these findings are good news for people who have serious side effects from statins.
Researchers from Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals — the developers of alirocumab — were involved in this study led by Dr. Moriarty.
Research presented at conferences should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.