Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Race on for a hit cholesterol drug

She was a 32-year-old aerobics instructor from a Dallas suburb — healthy, college-educated, with two young children. Nothing out of the ordinary, except one thing.

Her cholesterol was astoundingly low. Her low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, the form that promotes heart disease, was 14 — unheard-of in healthy adults whose normal level is over 100.

The reason was a rare gene mutation she had inherited from her mother and her father. Only one other person, a young, healthy Zimbabwean woman whose LDL cholesterol was 15, has been found with the same double dose of the mutation.

The discovery of the mutation and of the two women with their dazzlingly low LDL levels has set off one of the greatest medical chases ever. It is a fevered race among three pharmaceutical companies — Amgen, Pfizer and Sanofi — to test and win approval for a drug that mimics the effects of the mutation, drives LDL levels to new lows and prevents heart attacks. All three companies have drugs in clinical trials and report that their results, so far, are exciting.

"This is our top priority," said Dr. Andrew Plump, the head of translational medicine at Sanofi. "Nothing else we are doing has the same public health impact."

Dr. Gary Gibbons, director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, estimates that even if the drugs were expensive and injected, as many as 2 million Americans might be candidates. But if they could eventually be made affordable and in pill form — two very big ifs — they might be used by one in four adults, he said.

Despite major gains over the past half-century, heart disease remains the leading killer of Americans, causing nearly 600,000 deaths a year. Statins, the cholesterol-lowering drugs that went on the market in 1987, were a huge breakthrough but far from a panacea.

So far, people with high cholesterol levels who are taking the drugs in studies have seen their LDL levels plunging from levels well over 100 to 50, 40 or lower. Like insulin for diabetes, the drugs are injected, but they are taken once or twice a month.

Race on for a hit cholesterol drug 07/09/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 9, 2013 11:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, New York Times.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Water leak slows traffic in Westshore area

    Public Safety

    TAMPA –– A broken water main has closed the westbound lane of West Cypress Street between North Westshore Boulevard and North Ward Street. The city estimates the repairs will be completed by 7 a.m. on Sunday.

  2. Fox renewed O'Reilly contract despite knowing of allegations

    Nation

    NEW YORK (AP) — The Fox News Channel says the company knew a news analyst planned to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill O'Reilly when it renewed the popular personality's contract in February.

    Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly appears on the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," in New York. O'Reilly has lost his job at Fox News Channel in April following reports that several women had been paid millions of dollars to keep quiet about harassment allegations. [Associated Press file]
  3. Conviction overturned 30 years later in neo-Nazi murder case

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A judge on Friday overturned the murder conviction of Dean McKee now that new evidence has raised doubt about McKee's guilt in a Tampa slaying that occurred nearly three decades ago when he was 16.

    In 1987, a St. Petersburg Times reporter interviewed Dean McKee for a story about young skinheads in Tampa. [Times | 1987]
  4. Experts have some theories on who's carrying out Seminole Heights killings

    Crime

    The words serial killer tend to conjure an image of a middle-aged white man, likely a loner. He stabs or chokes or strangles, murdering up close for the thrill, straight out of central casting.

    A memorial was set up where Anthony Naiboa, 20, was found shot to death in Seminole Heights. Some experts who have reviewed information in the case say that whoever is behind the three Seminole Heights killings may live in the area. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  5. Late fumble, field goal send Florida State to another loss

    College

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher didn't have an explanation for the turning point in Saturday's 31-28 last-second loss to Louisville.

    Louisville's Lamar Jackson gets past Florida State's Matthew Thomas to score in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Tallahassee Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) FLSC102