Cardiovascular disease continues to be the world’s biggest killer, accounting for one in three deaths; so little wonder a new drug – billed as the biggest breakthrough since statins – has this week been hailed as a new dawn in heart treatment.
Every year in Britain, 200,000 people suffer a heart attack, but until now, cholesterol-lowering statins or blood-thinning drugs have been the only medicinal avenue available – even though half of all heart attacks occur in people who do not have high cholesterol, and a quarter of people go on to suffer a second attack within five years, despite treatment.
Now, after a landmark four-year trial involving 10,000 high-risk patients and 1000 doctors in 39 countries, scientists say an anti-inflammatory drug called canakinumab, injected every three months, has the potential to cut the risk of fatal repeat heart attacks and strokes by 24 per cent (9 per cent over and above the impact of statins).
Presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Barcelona on Sunday, and published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the drug has made waves in the medical world because it marks a new approach to heart attack prevention.
Unlike statins, its purpose is not to combat high cholesterol, but rather to reduce inflammation, which researchers have long suspected of playing a role in cardiovascular disease, cancer, and a whole host of other pathological problems, from rheumatoid arthritis to depression.
Inflammation is one of the body’s natural…
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