Two new cholesterol-lowering drugs recommended for NHS use

Two new cholesterol-lowering drugs recommended for NHS use

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended two new cholesterol-lowering drugs for use on the NHS - Sanofi's Praluent (alirocumab) and Amgen's Repatha (evolocumab).

Final draft guidance was issued recommending these treatment options for adults with primary hypercholesterolaemia or mixed dyslipidaemia.

These conditions can cause heart attacks and strokes, owing to a narrowing of the arteries caused by build-ups of fatty deposits.

People with the inherited form of hypercholesterolaemia have raised cholesterol levels from birth, meaning their risk of cardiovascular disease can be as high as 50 per cent in men by the age of 50 and at least 30 per cent in women by the age of 60.

Praluent and Repatha were recommended for people with these conditions who have not gained a sufficient benefit from other drugs, such as statins, or are unable to take statins because of their side effects or other health problems.

NICE backed the drugs after research showed that they reduced levels of LDL-cholesterol - so-called 'bad cholesterol' - by up to 62 per cent compared with placebo and up to 40 per cent compared with ezetimibe, another cholesterol-lowering treatment.

Professor Carole Longson MBE, director of the Nice Centre for Health Technology Evaluation, said the institute was pleased to expand the currently limited range of treatment options available to people with hypercholesterolaemia or mixed dyslipidaemia who are already taking the maximum possible dose of other drugs.

However, she also stressed that the cost of the treatments meant the recommendations came with some caveats.

"Both drugs are relatively expensive, costing over £4,000 per patient per year, compared with about £350 for ezetimibe," Professor Longson said.

"Therefore the draft guidance recommends alirocumab and evolocumab as a cost-effective use of NHS resources only with the discounts agreed with the companies, and only for people with hypercholesterolaemia or mixed dyslipidaemia whose cholesterol is still not under control despite making changes to their lifestyle and taking other cholesterol-lowering drugs."