A new medication could transform cholesterol

By Britney Glaser - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - A low HDL cholesterol is the most common abnormality in patients with heart attacks, yet there is no drug on the market to effectively raise the "good cholesterol" level.  In this Healthcast, we take a look at a new drug on the horizon that could potentially save lives down the road.

In 2001, Shirley Babb of Dry Creek got her first heart stent.  "Since then, I've had six until just recently," says Shirley, "when Dr. White put the seventh one in."

With a history of hereditary cholesterol problems, Shirley's arteries were healthy - but clogged easily. In December 2008, a routine surgery resulted in a major health scare.  "When they were bringing me out after the surgery, they asked me if I had any discomfort," says Shirley, "and I said 'yes, my jaw hurts, my chest hurts and I have chest pains.'"

That was the last moment Shirley remembered.  She had a heart attack and it was CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital's Dr. King White who got the blood flowing once again to her heart.  After Shirley recovered, Dr. White told her that she could help change the face of medicine on the market that affected patients like her, with low HDL cholesterol.

"He told me that they had a brand new drug that was so new that I couldn't even buy it," says Shirley, "but that they had a research project going and that he thought I was a prime candidate for it."  Dr. White says, "Scientists have developed a new drug, called Dalcetratib, and it's still experimental, but early reports show that's it's very good for raising HDL cholesterol."

CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital Clinical Study Coordinator, K.C. Marcantel, says the drug is unlike any other cholesterol medications.  "The drug is specifically used to increase a patient's HDL," he says, "their good cholesterol - most of the other drugs on the market right now are meant to lower your LDL and total cholesterol."

15,000 people worldwide, including Shirley, will take two pills every day for the next two years, in addition to blood tests and EKGs. Dr. White says if the results continue to show positive improvements, it won't be long until a medication that could reduce the number of heart attacks and potentially save lives is available.  "Hopefully in about three years we'll have a new drug on the market that will help people like Mrs. Babb with cholesterol problems," says Dr. White.

Half of the patients in this study are taking the actual medication, while the other half takes a placebo. Shirley has no idea if she is taking the "real thing," but she says she's feeling great and her recent follow-up appointment shows that her heart health is back on track.