(PHILADELPHIA) – Despite widespread use of cholesterol-lowering drugs, a significant number of cardiac patients continue to suffer heart attacks and stroke. Researchers theorize that high levels of an enzyme found in coronary plaques may be to blame, by making plaques more likely to rupture and block blood flow. The drug darapladib may offer a way to fight that risk, according to new research led by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
Researchers at the Penn and several other international sites have found that the drug may be a useful adjunct to treatment with statin drugs. The new findings, published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, show that the drug safely and effectively lowers the activity of Lp-PLA2, an enzyme associated with inflammation activity and an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
The trial results pave the way for an important addition to the drugs doctors use to treat heart disease, says the study’s lead author, Emile R. Mohler, MD, Director of Vascular Medicine and Associate Professor of Medicine at Penn.
“This is an exciting new area of medical treatment for cardiovascular disease," Mohler says. "It is hoped that this drug will stabilize artery plaque and prevent heart attack and stroke."
The drug was tested at three different dosage levels in about 1,000 patients with coronary heart disease already taking a cholesterol-lowering statin drug. Among patients taking 160 mg of darapladib each day during the 12-week study, blood tests revealed a decrease in two important circulating biomarkers, suggesting a possible reduction in systemic inflammatory burden.
While the drug doesn’t necessarily act to shrink the plaques that build inside coronary arteries and choke off blood supply to the heart, Mohler says the research suggests that darapladib may reduce plaque inflammation and therefore lower rates of clot formation and heart attacks among patients with coronary heart disease.
Editor’s Note: GlaxoSmithKline provided funding for the study. Mohler has no personal financial ties to the company.
PENN Medicine is a $3.5 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.
Penn's School of Medicine is currently ranked #4 in the nation in U.S.News & World Report's survey of top research-oriented medical schools; and, according to most recent data from the National Institutes of Health, received over $379 million in NIH research funds in the 2006 fiscal year. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.
The University of Pennsylvania Health System includes three hospitals — its flagship hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, rated one of the nation’s “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S.News & World Report; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital; and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center — a faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network; two multispecialty satellite facilities; and home care and hospice.
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