Anti-inflammatory drug could reduce risk of second heart attack

27 August 2017        

Category: Research

An atherosclerotic plaque forming within an artery

An anti-inflammatory drug, called canakinumab, could reduce a person's chance of suffering further heart attacks according to research presented today at the ESC congress.

The results of the clinical trial involving 10,000 heart attack patients showed that the drug reduced the risk of a subsequent cardiovascular event – including fatal or non-fatal heart attacks and strokes.

No effect on cholesterol

The drug lowered inflammation but had no effects on cholesterol, showing that inflammation plays a key role in the onset of a heart attack or stroke.

Patients who received the drug were 15 per cent less likely to suffer another heart attack or a stroke and needed fewer expensive interventional procedures, such as bypass surgery.

However, due to it's effects on the immune system the drug did increase a patient's chance of dying from a severe infection.

Lung cancer deaths cut by 75 per cent

In the trial population, lung cancer deaths were reduced by 75 per cent, although the researchers do not yet understand why.

The team are planning further trials to investigate canakinumab’s potentially protective effect against cancer.

Long-awaited results

Our associate medical director, Professor Jeremy Pearson, is optimistic about the trial opening the door to new types of treatment for heart attacks. He said:

“Nearly 200,000 people are hospitalised due to heart attacks every year in the UK,” Pearson said. “Cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins are given to these people to reduce their risk of another heart attack and this undoubtedly saves lives. But we know that lowering cholesterol alone is not always enough.

“These exciting and long-awaited trial results finally confirm that ongoing inflammation contributes to risk of heart disease, and lowering it could help save lives.”

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