The new, potent cholesterol-lowering drugs: An update

For people at high risk, PCSK9 inhibitors may prevent heart attacks and save lives. But gaining access to these pricey drugs remains a challenge.

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Three years ago, the FDA approved two drugs that lower harmful LDL cholesterol values dramatically — by more than 50%. The drugs, alirocumab (Praluent) and evolocumab (Repatha), belong to a new category of medications known as PCSK9 inhibitors. Both are given by a self-administered injection once or twice a month.

They're intended for people whose cholesterol levels remain stubbornly high, despite making lifestyle changes (such as diet and exercise) and taking the maximum dose of a high-potency statin and other cholesterol-lowering drugs. In the past two years, results from two large studies found that both PCSK9 inhibitors lowered the risk of serious heart-related events such as heart attack and stroke by 15%.

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