'Phenomenal' jab just twice a year set to replace statins in fight against cholesterol
A "phenomenal" jab given twice a year to cut cholesterol could replace statins for millions of people.
A landmark study has found that the gene-silencing injections can halve levels of "bad cholesterol", reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Health professionals at the World Congress of Cardiology in Paris, the largest gathering of its kind, said the results could transform lives, freeing many patients from taking a daily cocktail of drugs.
In the first instance, up to 700,000 patients in the UK with the highest cholesterol levels are likely to be targeted with the drugs, while remaining on statins. But in the long term, the jabs could be offered to millions of patients as an alternative to statins, to prevent heart disease, experts said.
The international study, led by Imperial College London, involved 1,617 patients with heart disease, half of whom were given the six-monthly jabs.
The injections work by silencing genes in the liver, limiting the production of "bad" LDL cholesterol.
The study found that those given the treatment, called inclisiran, saw levels fall by half, at least as good as a high-dose statin, and far superior to the low dose drugs. This was maintained simply by having a jab every six months.
Most of those on the trial were taking high-dose statins, but the cholesterol levels of those given the jabs decreased by 50pc.
Researchers said the injections could be particularly helpful for those who cannot tolerate daily statins, and those whose cholesterol levels remained high, despite taking the drugs.
The treatment would be administered via GP surgeries.
Cardiologists said that in time it could become an alternative to taking a daily pill for millions of people.
Cholesterol can build up inside the blood vessel walls, making them narrower and reducing blood flow to the heart or brain levels, raising the risk of heart disease, heart attacks and stroke.
Heart disease accounts for 32pc of all deaths in Ireland and high cholesterol is a major factor.
Normally, such patients are recommended to take statins, which stop the liver producing as much cholesterol.
Announcing the findings, lead author Professor Kausik Ray, of Imperial College London, said the jabs were a "game changer".
Dr Derek Connolly, consultant interventional cardiologist at Birmingham City Hospital, said: "The potential of this is phenomenal.