More Preliminary Signs That PCSK9 Inhibitors May Improve Outcomes Reply

More information about the highly anticipated new cholesterol lowering drugs from Amgen and Sanofi/Regeneron emerged today. A new new analysis of available data from early trials with PCSK9 inhibitors adds to the growing evidence showing that the drugs– Amgen’s evolocumab and Sanofi’s alirocumab– dramatically lower LDL cholesterol and offers additional preliminary evidence showing that they are safe and may confer a mortality benefit. But, the authors and other outside experts warn, the outcome findings should be interpreted with caution until long-term, dedicated outcome studies are completed.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Amgen Door Hanger

Should You Be Worried About The Neurocognitive Side Effects Of The New Cholesterol Drugs? Reply

The big news yesterday was important additional information about the new cholesterol lowering PCSK9 inhibitors from Amgen and Sanofi/Regeneron. As I reported then, the studies were broadly consistent, showing the powerful cholesterol-lowering effects of the drugs and providing an early suggestion that the drugs may lead to significant reductions in heart attacks, stroke, and other cardiovascular events. But one finding, though not entirely new, has prompted a lot of discussion and concern.

Both studies reported a small but significant number of adverse neurocognitive effects in people taking the drugs. No one knows yet how important this finding will be, but it is clear that concerns about a real effect might have its own “adverse effect” on the drugs’ approval process.  Most experts seem to feel that they won’t be a very big problem, but none completely dismissed the issue either. Here are some of the main points under discussion:

Click here to read the full post on Forbes

 

 

 

New Cholesterol Drugs: Highly Effective But Important Questions Remain Reply

New information emerged today about two new cholesterol-lowering drugs that have been attracting a lot of attention. Data about the PCSK9 inhibitors– evolocumab, under development by Amgen, and alirocumab, under development by Sanofi and Regeneron– were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The effects of the two drugs appeared to be broadly consistent. Both lowered LDL cholesterol powerfully, which is what the drugs were designed to do. The situation is less clear regarding the more difficult to ascertain safety and tolerability of the drugs and their long-term clinical effects…

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

 

PCSK9

Marc Sabatine presenting evolocumab results at the American College of Cardiology meeting in San Diego

 

 

No, The New Cholesterol Drugs From Sanofi And Amgen Aren’t Going To Cost $150 Billion A Year Reply

In an article on the Health Affairs blog 4 CVS executives speculate that the new cholesterol lowering PCSK9 inhibitors from Amgen and Sanofi might achieve yearly sales of $150 billion or even higher. I think these numbers are a bit silly. But first let’s take a look at their extremely bullish case….

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Amgen Door Hanger

New US Guidelines Will Lift Limits On Dietary Cholesterol Reply

The influential  Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has recommended that limitations on dietary cholesterol be removed from the upcoming 2015 edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Recommendations to reduce dietary cholesterol have been a mainstay of the USDA and other guidelines for many years, starting with guidelines from the American Heart Association in the 1960s.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

 

Sanofi And Regeneron Leapfrog Amgen In New Cholesterol Drug Race Reply

Early on Monday Sanofi and Regeneron leapfrogged their rival Amgen to gain leadership in the race to bring a new class of cholesterol drugs to market. The new development could potentially give Sanofi and Regeneron a month on the market by itself before facing competition from Amgen.

Sanofi and Regeneron announced early on Monday that the FDA had accepted for priority review the Biologics License Application (BLA) for alirocumab, their PCSK9 inhibitor…

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Success For 40-Year Effort In One Rural County To Curb Cardiovascular Disease Reply

A 40-year program in one poor rural county to combat cardiovascular disease appears to have been successful, resulting in reduced rates of hospitalization and death compared with other counties in the same state over the same time period. The new findings from the study are described in a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

HDL Raising Drugs Probably Won’t Work But This Might 1

A new study offers important new insights into the protective role of HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) against cardiovascular disease. Earlier studies with drugs that increase HDL levels, including niacin and CETP inhibitors, have not shown benefit. The new study suggests that simply increasing HDL levels isn’t the way to go. Instead, cholesterol efflux, the ability of HDL to remove cholesterol from cells, part of the process called reverse cholesterol transport, appears to be the key. The results were presented today by Anand Rohatgi at the American Heart Association meeting in Chicago and published simultaneously in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The investigators followed 2,416 people participating in the Dallas Heart Study who were free of cardiovascular disease at the start for 9.4 years….

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IMPROVE-IT Meets Endpoint And Demonstrates Real But Modest Clinical Benefit For Ezetimibe Reply

After all the waiting and all the controversy it turned out to be pretty simple. The IMPROVE-IT trial did what it set out to do and reached its primary endpoint. The benefit wasn’t very big or impressive but it will be enough to put to rest concerns that ezetimibe might have been an expensive placebo or that LDL might not be a reliable surrogate endpoint. The IMPROVE-IT results will also provide comfort to companies developing the next generation of cholesterol drugs, since their approval may have depended on validation of LDL as a surrogate endpoint.

The  Improved Reduction of Outcomes: Vytorin Efficacy International Trial, presented Monday morning at the American Heart Association meeting in Chicago, randomized 18,144 high-risk patients within 10 days of an acute coronary event to either ezetimibe or placebo on top of a statin….

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

Cannon

At the American Heart Association Meeting You Really Can’t Escape The New Cholesterol Drugs 1

There’s no escaping them. At the American Heart Association in Chicago going on right now Amgen and Sanofi/Regeneron, which are developing competing cholesterol lowering drugs known as PCSK9 inhibitors, have mounted a full scale attack to capture the eyeballs and the brains of cardiologists and any other innocent bystanders who happen to be at the McCormick convention center.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

Amgen Door Hanger

 

IMPROVE-IT Trial Paper Won’t Be Published Right Away In The New England Journal Of Medicine 1

The presentation of the eagerly awaited IMPROVE-IT trial, scheduled for Monday at the American Heart Association meeting, won’t be accompanied by a simultaneous publication in the New England Journal of Medicine. Although no one except for a small group of insiders knows for sure, this news may have important implications.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Newly Identified Mutations Act Like a Lifetime of Treatment with Ezetimibe Reply

A very large genetic study published in the New England Journal of Medicine offers compelling evidence in support of a central role for LDL cholesterol in coronary heart disease.

In a series of studies analyzing blood samples from nearly 100,000 people, Sekar Kathiresan and colleagues identified 15 rare mutations that block the activity of a single gene — called Niemann-Pick C1-Like 1 (NPC1L1). The mean LDL level was 12 mg/dL lower in mutation carriers than noncarriers. There were just 11 carriers of the mutations among 29,954 people with CHD versus 71 carriers among 83,140 people without known CHD (carrier frequency: 0.04% vs. 0.09%).  This worked out to a 53% reduction in CHD risk for mutation carriers.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes, including comments from James Stein, Sekar Kathiresan, and Harlan Krumholz.

What You Need To Know About IMPROVE-IT Reply

The IMPROVE-IT trial will be big news when its results are finally presented on November 17 during the annual meeting of the American Heart Association. The results of the trial–underway for nearly a decade– have been long and eagerly awaited by everyone interested in cardiovascular medicine.  The trial could impact the future sales of a key Merck drug, ezetimibe, though because it is nearing the end of its patent life the commercial significance is somewhat limited. However, IMPROVE-IT will also have very important implications beyond its specific effect on one drug franchise and could influence the fate of several new drugs now being investigated and may even alter the entire drug development and evaluation process.

Here’s some background information and links to useful resources.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Cholesterol Drugs Haunted By Ghosts Of Past, Present, And Future Reply

Cholesterol drugs, both new and old, are in the news again. There’s a lot going on now but the picture won’t really become clear until next month, when the results of a decade-old trial will finally be revealed. Briefly, here’s what’s happening:

  • Two new trials presented fresh evidence that PCSK9s, the much discussed new class of cholesterol drugs, have powerful LDL-lowering properties.
  • A new drug from Esperion, the phoenix of biotech companies, also showed promising results. The drug, ETC-1002, is a few years behind the PCSK9s in development but has some important theoretical advantages that may prove very important down the road.
  • At the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in November the results of the IMPROVE-IT trial will be presented. The results of this trial, as I have argued in the past, may have a broad if not decisive impact on the future of the PCSK9s and ETC-1002.

 …

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Early Hint At Cardiovascular Outcomes With Sanofi’s and Regeneron’s Rapidly Advancing Cholesterol Drug Reply

Amid a slew of new data demonstrating yet again that PCSK9 inhibitors lower LDL cholesterol– drastically and in a wide variety of different patient populations– data from one trial offers the first suggestion that the drugs may in fact improve cardiovascular outcomes. But the analysis, the authors cautioned, is a post-hoc analysis of a trial neither designed nor powered to study outcomes, so should be considered preliminary and speculative at best.

Four phase 3 trials with the Sanofi and Regeneron PCSK9 inhibitor alirocumab (pronounced “allee rock you mab” by Chris Cannon at a news conference) were presented today at the European Society of Cardiology meeting in Barcelona.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

IMPROVE-IT Trial Scheduled For Presentation In November Reply

Results of the eagerly-awaited and highly controversial IMPROVE-IT trial are finally going to be revealed. The American Heart Association has announced that the  trial will be presented by Chris Cannon on November 17 at 11:51 AM (central time) in Chicago at the group’s annual scientific sessions . IMPROVE-IT compared the effect on cardiovascular outcomes of the statin simvastatin with Vytorin (the combination of simvastatin and ezetimibe, manufactured by Merck) in more than 18,000 patients with acute coronary syndromes.

Both Vytorin and IMPROVE-IT have been the subject of considerable controversy.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

12.8 Million More Adults Now Eligible For Statin Therapy Reply

Millions more people are now eligible for statin therapy under the new cholesterol guideline, according to a new estimate published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

There have been many attempts to quantify just how many more people are now eligible for statin therapy under the new guideline. Now in the new paper in NEJM, Michael Pencina and colleagues estimate that the new guideline results in a net increase of 12.8 million people who are now eligible for statins.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

FDA Sprinkles Some Rain On the PCSK9 Inhibitor Parade Reply

In the last few years the PCSK9 inhibitors have been one of the few bright lights in an otherwise dismal field of new cardiovascular drugs. Now the FDA is raising questions that could dramatically slow down the progress of these new cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Last month Regeneron disclosed that it had been “advised by the FDA that it has become aware of neurocognitive adverse events in the PCSK9 inhibitor class.”

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Aegerion Warns About Negative Impact Of DOJ Investigation Reply

Earlier this week in its annual report Aegerion Pharmaceuticals provided an update on its ongoing problems with the FDA and the Department of Justice. As previously reported here and on The Street and on CNBC, the company landed in hot water with the FDA last year after its CEO made a series of off-label statements on the CNBC Fast Money show. (The company’s only product, Juxtapid (lomitapide) is a cholesterol-lowering drug indicated for the rare condition of homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia. It sells for $250,000 a year.) Now the company reports that by running “a corrective advertisement on CNBC” and by reviewing additional promotional material  it believes it will be able to resolve its problems with the FDA.

But the DOJ investigation may prove to be a bigger and more serious problem….

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Pfizer Starts Testing For Over-The-Counter Lipitor Reply

Looking backward to improve its future, Pfizer will once again try to gain FDA approval to market its blockbuster drug, atorvastatin (Lipitor), over-the-counter (OTC). Peter Loftus reports in the Wall Street Journal that the company has started a clinical study to support the application for low-dose atorvastatin (10 mg).

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Dispatch From The Wild Frontier Of The Statin Wars Reply

The long simmering controversy over the relative benefits and harms of statins has heated to a high boil with the release of the new AHA/ACC US guidelines. But nowhere is the battle more intense right now than in Australia where, according to the National Heart Foundation, a TV show may be the cause of 2,000 heart attacks and strokes over the next five years.

The show was a 2-part documentary  (click here for part 1 and part 2) broadcast in October on the Australian ABC network about dietary fat and cholesterol.

The program, wrote Amy Corderoy, the health editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, “claimed the causal link between saturated fat, cholesterol and heart disease was ‘the biggest myth in medical history’… [and described statins] as toxic and potentially deadly.”

Catalyst delved into a raging debate: has dietary guidance telling us to avoid fats pushed us towards more harmful sugar and carbohydrates instead?

But the program also went a step further, arguing cholesterol was just an innocent bystander in the body’s attempts to deal with the sugar-damage. It was not a big leap to claim statins were dangerous, and the research supporting them fraudulent.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Heart of the Matter screen shot

 

 

Slouching Toward Phase 3: Progress Report On New Cholesterol Drugs At The AHA Reply

The American Heart Association meeting in Dallas this year brought new phase 2 data about several promising new cholesterol drugs. But before jumping on any bandwagons it would be good to remember that even for the drugs most far along in development we still haven’t seen any phase 3 data. In addition, it bears repeating that the FDA may well be raising the entry bar for new cholesterol medications. As I wrote not too long ago, there is a good chance that the FDA will require completed outcomes studies for new cholesterol drugs. There’s good reason to be interested in these drugs but any predictions at this point would be hopelessly speculative.

One Year Results For Amgen’s PCSK-9 Inhibitor 

HDL Drug From CSL Limited

Esperion’s Novel Agent

Click here to read the full story on Forbes.

The Fate Of New Cholesterol Drugs Depends On IMPROVE-IT Reply

Prospects for the highly anticipated new class of cholesterol-lowering drugs, the PCSK9 inhibitors, took a wild roller coaster ride this week. The publication of new lipid guidelines by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology led many observers to think that the promising new drugs under development by Regeneron (in partnership with Sanofi), Amgen, and Pfizer might suffer significant delays.

The guidelines delivered a strong statement questioning the increasingly controversial theory that LDL lowering by itself is beneficial. “We found that non-statin therapies really didn’t provide an acceptable risk reduction benefit compared to their potential for adverse effects in the routine prevention of heart attack and stroke,” said the co-chair of the guideline. This led many observers to think that the FDA would likely require the developers of PCSK9 inhibitors to complete cardiovascular outcome trials before getting US approval. This decision would delay approval for several years.

Then, on Thursday, the companies developing PCSK9 inhibitors received some apparent good news. Bloomberg News reported that an FDA official said that the drugs “will only have to meet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s existing standards for clearance, including whether they cut cholesterol and reduce blood pressure or inflammation.”

But then the FDA added one other very important caveat. Here’s how they phrased it to me:

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

After Long Wait, Updated US Cardiovascular Guidelines Now Emphasize Risk Instead Of Targets 1

Updated cardiovascular health guidelines were released today by  the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC). The guidelines are designed to provide primary care physicians with evidence-based expert guidance on cholesterol, obesity, risk assessment, and healthy lifestyle.

The new guidelines reinforce many of the same messages from previous guidelines, but also represent a sharp change in philosophy. That change is most evident in the new lipid guidelines, in which the focus has shifted away from setting numerical targets for cholesterol levels in favor of treatment decisions based on individual risk status.

“This guideline represents a departure from previous guidelines because it doesn’t focus on specific target levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, commonly known as LDL, or ‘bad cholesterol,’ although the definition of optimal LDL cholesterol has not changed,” said Neil J. Stone, chair of the lipid expert panel that wrote the new guideline. “Instead, it focuses on defining groups for whom LDL lowering is proven to be most beneficial.”

The long-awaited and often controversial guidelines are the successors to the extremely influential NHLBI guidelines, including the Adult Treatment Panel (ATP) series of guidelines that brought cholesterol to the consciousness of millions of people. Earlier this year the NHLBI announced that it would no longer issue guidelines but would, instead, provide support for guidelines produced by other organizations. Following the NHLBI announcement, the AHA and the ACC said that they would take over publication of the guidelines.

Statins Indicated for Four Broad Groups

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

Guideline Maze

Original illustration by Max Husten

 

Prevalence Of Cardiovascular Disease Likely To Increase Despite Gains In Treatment Reply

It is the best of times and the worst of times in the battle against cardiovascular disease. On the one hand, mortality rates from cardiovascular disease in the US have dropped by more than half in the last 30 years, likely due in large part to improvements in treatment for elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels and big declines in smoking. On the other hand, it is uncertain whether these gains will continue, and many experts think that cardiovascular disease may well be on the rise once again, largely due to the aging of the population and to increases in obesity and diabetes.

In an article in Health Affairs, Ankur Pandya and colleagues (including cardiologist Thomas Gaziano of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital) forecast cardiovascular disease trends through the year 2030 using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They project that although the age-adjusted risk for cardiovascular disease is likely to continue to decline through 2030, because of an aging population and the increase in obesity the overall incidence of cardiovascular disease will increase.

Click here to read the full story on Forbes.