By Lucy Buglass
The NHS will pioneer a twice-annual injection that reduces bad cholesterol, according to the health secretary.
Later this year, a 'groundbreaking' large-scale clinical trial will offer patients a new form of cholesterol medicine in an injection called inclisiran.
This could be an alternative to statin pills, which work to cut cholesterol. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that this initiative could '30,000 lives during the next decade'.
Inclisiran is given by injection every six months, and is part of a new form of medicine called gene-silencing. It controls the instructions that the body gets.
To help with cholesterol, it 'silences' the PCSK9 gene, which results in the liver absorbing more 'bad cholesterol' from the blood and breaking it down.
Bad cholesterol builds up inside the walls of blood vessels and makes them narrower. This increases the risk of a person having a heart attack or stroke.
But trials presented at the European Society of Cardiology revealed inclisiran could cut bad cholesterol levels in half within weeks. Trial leader Prof Kausik Ray said it had 'enormous' potential.
The Department of Health and Social Care claims it would prevent 55,000 heart attacks and strokes each year for every 300,000 patients treated.
Around 40,000 people might be eligibile to take part in another large-scale trial, which will assess inclisiran for more routine use. At the moment this only applies to patients in England.
The NHS has described this collaboration between the health service, drug company Novartis and researchers as 'groundbreaking'.
University of Oxford’s Prof Martin Landray will lead the trial, and said, "It is certainly innovative, exciting and a step-change in the way we do clinical trials."
Experts seem impressed with the concept so far, although welcome further trials and research to ensure patient safety. Prof Naveed Sattar, from the University of Glasgow, said, "Doctors are excited by inclisiran and the potential to 'vaccinate' against high cholesterol in some patients.
"However, many would also like to see longer term safety data from ongoing trials and to be told the cost of this new drug before they consider implications for care."
Dr Riyaz Patel, clinical lead for cardiovascular disease prevention at Barts Health NHS Trust, said, "This as a really exciting announcement that changes the way we bring new medicines to patients earlier and [will] also propel the NHS and the UK as a world leader in this sort of clinical research.
"It is certainly a welcome step forwards to get exciting new drugs to patients quickly and safely."
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