A recent trial of the new drug canakinumab might represent a massive leap forward in the treatment of heart attack risk since the first introduction of statins (which lower cholesterol). The study shows that canakinumab could reduce the risk of a repeat heart attack by 15 percent; and it is just an anti-inflammatory. In addition, the drug might also lower the rate for lung cancer risk and death.
At a meeting in Barcelona, the study authors are presenting their findings as a preliminary step, advising that this opens more doors in terms of research. For one, Dr. Paul Ridker, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School contends that this method will lead to more ways of helping people who are most at risk for dying of heart disease and stroke.
He comments, “This plays beautifully into the whole idea of personalized medicine and trying to get the right drug to the right patient,” Ridker said. His team tested upwards of 10,000 patients with a history of at least one heart attack—which always puts you at risk for another—and also had high levels of the high-sensitivity C-reactive protein. This is a marker that indicates inflammation levels in the body. These patients were already taking several medications to treat heart disease.
The study followed patients over several years with some getting injections of placebo, or low, medium, or high doses of the drug every three months. Those who received the highest doses showed the greatest response, of course, reducing their risk for second heart attack more than any other group.
Ridker adds, “For the first time, we’ve been able to definitively show that lowering inflammation independent of cholesterol reduces cardiovascular risk.”
Moving on, then, Novartis—who makes the drug—said it will seek permission from the US Food and Drug Administration to market the new drug as a potential preventative treatment for heart attacks; and they will continue to test on its effects on lung cancer.
Ridker continues, logically, “If you smoke a pack of cigarettes, you chronically inflame the lung. If you are a long-haul truck driver breathing in diesel, you are chronically inflaming the lung,” as inflammation can drive cancer just as much as heart disease.