Statins often come with side affects such as aching muscles
Officials have approved the use of new cholesterol-reducing drugs that are as effective as statins but without the side effects.
Repatha and Praluent are in the vanguard of a new class of treatments that are expected to halve levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol in patients.
Scientists say they promise to save thousands of lives by preventing heart attacks and strokes in patients for whom statins do not work.
Some 325,000 patients could be taking the new drugs within weeks after the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) approved them for use.
They will benefit those with inherited high cholesterol and those with heart disease who cannot cope with the side-effects of statins.
Statins, which are taken by more than seven million people daily in the UK, were developed 30 years ago but are renowned for side-effects such as muscle pain.
It is estimated that up to 20 percent of patients prescribed statins have to stop using the drugs because of muscle pain, leaving them at a high risk of heart attacks or strokes.
In some other patients statins do not work at all.
The new drugs will be self-administered with an injection pen and will be available for around 200,000 people who have symptoms of heart disease and who cannot tolerate statins or for whom statins do not work.
They will also be available for the roughly 125,000 patients who cannot bring their cholesterol down to a safe level with statins.
Professor Carole Longson, a director at NICE, said: “We are very pleased to be able to recommend alirocumab and evolocumab.
“People with hypercholesterolaemia or mixed dyslipidaemia who have a high risk of a heart attack or stroke despite taking the highest tolerated dose of other cholesterol-lowering drugs, have very few treatment options.
“The committee concluded that both drugs are effective in reducing levels of ‘bad cholesterol’ when compared with placebo, ezetimibe or statins in people with hypercholesterolaemia or mixed dyslipidaemia.
“However, both drugs are relatively expensive, costing over £4,000 per patients per year compared with about £350 for ezetemibe.
“Therefore the draft guidance recommends alirocumab [Praluent] and evolocumab [Rapetha] as a cost effective use of NHS resources only with the discounts agreed with the companies and only for people with hypercholesterolaemia or mixed dyslipidaemia whose cholesterol is still not under control despite making changes to their lifestyle and taking other cholesterol-lowering drugs.”
NHS providers are expected to begin receiving stocks of the new drugs over the next two months and every hospital will be given a further three months before they are obliged to offer the drugs to patients.
Drugs that replace statins but without the side effects approved for use by the NHS
by Henry Bodkin, telegraph.co.uk