What if I told you that your body can have a genetic mutation that fights heart disease. The DNA that we inherit from our parents (one strand from mom and one from dad) is getting processed to make new cells every second of every day. Among that code lies the solution to heart disease. A DNA combination has shown up in our population with the solution to a problem. Recently, science has found two people who have an LDL (cholesterol) level of 14. That is not a misprint, 14. Healthy adults normally have a level over 100.
How is the LDL so Low?
The reason was a rare gene mutation(PCSK9) inherited from both parents. It turns out that this section of both genes were turned off. The side effect was a low LDL level. How nice is that? Only one other person whose LDL cholesterol was 15, has ever been found with the same double dose of the mutation. The discovery of the mutation with low LDL levels has set off the race to reproduce this genetic mutation (Amgen, Pfizer and Sanofi) The hope is to win approval for a drug that mimics the effects of the mutation, drives LDL levels to new lows and prevents heart attacks. All three companies have drugs in clinical trials and report that their results, so far, are exciting.
A New Lipitor?
There are some challenges to overcome since it is a biologic, a so-called monoclonal antibody made in living cells. The drugs are injected, but they are taken once or twice a month. If they can transform this mutation in pill form or make it priced as a tablet, one in four americans would be using this drug. So that is about 150 million patients in the US alone. This would replace statins like Lipitor and the sheer numbers who are affected by heart disease would make a cure a multi-billion dollar drug. So far, people with stubbornly high cholesterol levels who are taking the drugs in preliminary studies have seen their LDL levels plunging from levels well over 100 to 50, 40, or even lower.
Cost and Side Effects
And there is another concern: cost. Insurance companies would be the ones who would have to say yes. Each biologic, which is currently made at an enormous expense, like some new cancer drugs, can strain the medical system. Insurers generally pay for drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and the number who might benefit from these cholesterol drugs dwarfs those who are helped by the biologic cancer drugs. Ultimately, it will come down to how cheap they can mass produce the drug. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you about the side effects since this drug is still in the early phases of drug testing. I soon as I get more information, I will pass it along.
Would this genetic mutation benefit your cholesterol?