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Cholesterol Lowering Drug Reduces Risk Before Heart Problems Arise

Cleveland Clinic research shows taking a cholesterol-lowering drug before heart problems arise can reduce risk for heart issues and death. Lead study author, Steven Nissen, comments.

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About 86 million American adults have high cholesterol but only around half are taking medicine to lower it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Image for illustration purposes

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CLEVELAND CLINIC – About 86 million American adults have high cholesterol but only around half are taking medicine to lower it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Now, Cleveland Clinic research shows taking a cholesterol-lowering drug before heart problems arise can significantly reduce risk for heart-related complications and death in high-risk individuals.

“What we saw was that people with a high cholesterol, and these were statin-intolerant patients but patients with high cholesterol, who were at risk for a heart-related event but had never had an event, had a very large reduction in their risk when they were treated with bempedoic acid, which lowers LDL cholesterol and it reduces inflammation,” said lead author Steven E. Nissen, MD, chief academic officer of the Heart Vascular & Thoracic Institute at Cleveland Clinic.

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Dr. Nissen and his team performed a secondary analysis on data collected for the CLEAR Outcomes trial, which studied a cholesterol-lowering medicine, called bempedoic acid, in people who were unable to take statins.

They focused on 4,200 people who had high cholesterol and other heart risk factors, like diabetes, but hadn’t yet experienced a heart-related event.
Participants were given either bempedoic acid or placebo.

Results show, after six months of treatment, bempedoic acid reduced LDL, or ‘bad’ cholesterol, by 23%.

There was also a 30% reduction in major heart events and a 39% reduction in death from heart disease.

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Dr. Nissen said the study emphasizes the importance of treating high cholesterol early before serious heart problems occur.

“Patients with high cholesterol and risk factors are undertreated in the United States. Only about half of them are actually receiving cholesterol-lowering medications, like statins,” said Dr. Nissen. “We think the message is, people that have risk factors need to discuss with their doctor whether they would benefit from taking a cholesterol-lowering medicine. That might be a statin, might be bempedoic acid, but they shouldn’t leave high cholesterol untreated because they haven’t yet had a heart-related event.”

If you’ve been told that you have high cholesterol and are not on medicine to lower it, Dr. Nissen suggests talking with your health care provider.

Complete results can be found in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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