Harvard Heart Letter

New drug fizzles at raising HDL

Tried-and-true strategies are still excellent ways to boost good cholesterol.

When pharmaceutical giant Pfizer pulled the plug on torcetrapib, its experimental HDL-raising drug, media reports made it sound like we were losing our last, best ally in the battle against heart disease. The decision was unquestionably a huge setback for Pfizer, which had sunk $800 million into developing torcetrapib. And it was a big bump in the road for researchers hoping that high-density lipoprotein (HDL, the so-called good cholesterol) would be the next big thing in cholesterol-targeted drug therapy. But it shouldn't be taken as a sign that raising HDL is a bad or dangerous strategy for preventing heart disease and stroke "" just that torcetrapib isn't the way to do it.

The torcetrapib story starts in the late 1970s with the discovery of cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP), a protein that circulates in the bloodstream attached to HDL particles. Its job is to shuttle cholesterol and other fats between different types of cholesterol-carrying lipoprotein particles.

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