Heart jab which can halve bad cholesterol in two weeks gets NHS green light

Laura Donnelly
The jab uses gene silencing to target bad cholesterol -  Panida Wijitpanya

 

A jab which is more powerful than statins has been given the go-ahead by the NHS, in a bid to prevent 30,000 deaths from heart attacks and strokes. 

A mass trial will see tens of thousands of patients given gene-silencing injections which can halve levels of “bad cholesterol” in just two weeks - vastly reducing the risk of heart disease. 

The treatment - likened to a vaccine - will first be targeted at 40,000 middle aged men and women whose cholesterol remains high, despite being prescribed daily statins. 

But the jabs are expected to be rolled out to around 300,000 patients a year, from next year. 

Estimates suggest this could prevent 55,000 heart attacks and strokes in a decade, saving 30,000 lives

The plans have been drawn up as the result of a radical deal between drug manufacturers and the Government, which aims to speed up access to breakthrough treatments. 

Experts said the move could revolutionise prevention of heart disease, one of the UK’s biggest killers.  

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I'm determined to find ways to save as many lives as possible, and to do my best to stop terrible conditions like heart disease from taking people from their family and friends far too soon. 

“This partnership is fantastic news and is a huge stride forward in helping to achieve this.”

Last year an international study, led by Imperial College London, found that those given the treatment, called inclisiran, saw levels fall by half.

The result was at least as good as a high-dose statin, and far superior to the low dose drugs.  And it was maintained simply by having a jab every six months.

The licence for the twice-yearly jabs is expected to say they should be used as well as statins for patients with a diagnosis of heart disease. 

But cardiologists believe that in time, the jabs could become an alternative to daily pills for millions of people.

Heart disease is the second biggest cause of death in the UK, and around six out of ten adults have raised cholesterol levels. 

This can build up inside blood vessel walls, making them narrower and reducing blood flow to the heart or brain, increasing the risk of a  heart attack or stroke. 

Normally, such patients are recommended to take statins, which stop the liver producing as much cholesterol.  

Around eight million adults in Britain take these every year.

 

 

Last year British research found that less than half of those on the drugs manage to achieve a 40 per cent reduction in cholesterol. 

Prof Kausik Ray, Professor of Public Health, Imperial College London, said, who led trials into the jabs said they had “enormous potential” in ensuring that patients adhered to treatment, with many likely to forget to take daily pills. 

He said: “This approach promises to revolutionise cardiovascular disease prevention.”

The drug is expected to be used as an add-on treatment to statins for patients diagnosed with cardiovascular disease.

Prof Naveed Sattar, Professor of Metabolic Medicine, University of Glasgow, said:“Doctors are excited by inclisiran and the potential to ‘vaccinate’ against high cholesterol in some patients, with obvious benefits to compliance and uptake. “

He said he would like to see longer term-safety data and drug costs before the treatment became part of routine care. 

The agreement in principle aims to ensure a commercial deal between NHS England and manufacturers Novartis which would allow the drug to be available to patients outside of the trial as soon as 2021. 

Lord Prior, chairman of NHS England, said: "This innovative and groundbreaking collaboration could transform the health outlook of tens of thousands of people suffering from heart disease, by bringing together in a unique combination our ability to organise large scale clinical trials, to address highly complex manufacturing issues, and to reach a large population of patients."