Heart disease has been a leading cause of death in Canada for decades, accounting for almost a quarter of all deaths. But it looks like our doctors may have just struck a decisive blow in the fight against it.
Currently, patients suffering from high levels of bad cholesterol (called low-density cholesterol, or LDL) have relied on medication called statins, which you probably know better by the brand name, Lipitor. While these medications have been known to reduce LDL by anywhere between 30 and 50 per cent, they come with a host of side effects, they must be taken daily and their potency is limited. That’s why the need for a superior medication is still urgent.
That’s where Canada comes in.
Dr. Nabil Seidah, the Director of the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Diseases research division at the University of Montreal, discovered a naturally occurring protein called PCSK9 that actually blocks the liver from filtering out LDL. As research continued, it was discovered that a very small group of people possess a genetic mutation which prevents that protein from messing with their liver, and the result seemed to be an almost-immunity to heart disease.
It wasn’t long before pharmaceutical companies were trying to mimic that mutation. The findings were eventually handed off to a biotech firm in Burnaby, B.C., where they created PCSK9 inhibitors, which prevent those proteins from mucking around in the liver. Clinical trials so far have shown the inhibitors can reduce LDL levels by up to 60 per cent, a dramatic improvement from its predecessor.
The only downside right now is cost. The drugs are still on the expensive side for the time being, but many in the medical community are just excited that a potential revolution in the fight against heart disease may have finally arrived.
For more information, watch the video, above.