Experimental drug lowers lipoprotein(a), a suspect in heart attacks

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A new kind of drug given by injection can lower blood levels of lipoprotein(a), or Lp(a), a fatty particle linked to a heightened risk of heart attack and narrowing of the aortic valve, according to a study published January 1 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Up to one in five people has a very high level of Lp(a), which is nearly completely determined by a person's genes. Lp(a) particles are similar to the better-known LDL cholesterol particles but with an extra protein coiled around each particle.

The drug, known as APO(a)-LRx, works by silencing the gene that causes liver cells to make Lp(a). The study compared different doses of the drug to a placebo injection in 286 people with cardiovascular disease whose Lp(a) levels were 60 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or higher. Normal levels are 30 mg/dL or lower.

The highest dose of the drug lowered Lp(a) levels by 80%, compared with a 6% drop in people who got the placebo. A study investigating the drug's ability to lower the risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems is currently under way.

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