In 1971, a Japanese biochemist, Akira Endo, started work on what turned out to be the next big thing in the prevention of heart attacks and strokes, known as statins.

In 1978, Merck (MRK) isolated lovastatin from fungusAspergillus terreus. Lovastatin is naturally contained in red yeast rice, a traditional Chinese fermented rice that is bright reddish purple in color.  Lovastatin was first marketed as Mevacor in 1987.  Merck started perhaps one of the most successful health related campaigns to convince the public and doctors of the dangers of high cholesterol and the effectiveness of statins to control it.

Another statin, atorvastatin, marketed under the name of Lipitor by Pfizer (PFE), became the bestselling drug for a number of years.

Now, the next big thing in the fight against heart attacks and strokes is on the horizon in the form of anti-PCSK9 (Proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9) medicines.

Scientists have long known that mutations in the PCSK9 gene result in a rare form of autosomal dominant familial hypercholesterolemia.   The disease is caused by a reduction in low-density lipoprotein (LDL).

At the American College of Cardiology meeting inChicago, considerable excitement has been generated by two studies from Amgen (AMGN) and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN).

Statins have side effects and a significant percent of the population cannot tolerate them.  PCSK9 inhibitors have the ability to lower the so called bad cholesterol.

Amgen study produced the following results:

The Phase 1b study of 51 patients on stable doses of statins was designed to assess the safety and tolerability of AMG 145 and its effect on LDL-C levels versus placebo…..Read more at Forbes


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