'Revolutionary': Life-saving cholesterol drug approved for use in England

1 September 2021, 08:51

The cholesterol drug could help prevent 55,000 heart attacks and strokes.
The cholesterol drug could help prevent 55,000 heart attacks and strokes. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

A "revolutionary" cholesterol drug that can help prevent thousands of heart attacks and strokes has been approved for use in England.

The cholesterol-lowering drug - called inclisiran - will be available on the NHS and is predicted to save around 30,000 lives within the next decade.

It will be given to people with high cholesterol or mixed dyslipidaemia - abnormally high levels of fats in their blood - who have already had a heart attack or stroke, it has been revealed under draft final guidance by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice).

However, the treatment is also recommended for use in research trials of people who have never had any cardiovascular issues.

NHS England said it would be rolled out at an unprecedented scale after the health service and manufacturer struck a deal that enables the use of inclisiran at a cost-effective price.

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The drug is the first of a new type of treatment, which uses RNA interference (RNAi) to help the liver remove harmful cholesterol from the blood.

It will be given as an injection by nurses in GP surgeries across England, with an initial dose followed by another three months later. After that, it will be given twice a year.

Clinical trial evidence showed that inclisiran might lower levels when other treatments had not reduced them enough, Nice said.

Meanwhile, NHS England and NHS Improvement estimated that around 300,000 people will have received the drug in three years' time, helping prevent 55,000 heart attacks and strokes.

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Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: "This is a huge step forward in tackling the scourge of heart disease, which tragically kills thousands every year.

"I want to thank the NHS, Novartis and Nice for this work to help treat one of the world's deadliest diseases."

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said the cholesterol-lowering drug was "revolutionary".

"The NHS is committed to using cutting-edge treatments to save and improve patients' lives," she said.

"Heart disease is still one of the major killer conditions so it is fantastic that we now have such an effective and convenient treatment for those living with dangerously high cholesterol levels.

"This world-leading deal for the rollout of inclisiran will save lives and enable hundreds of thousands of people to benefit from this revolutionary treatment, while also being fair to taxpayers."

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More than two in five people in England have high cholesterol, which puts them at significant risk of developing heart disease, NHS England has said. It accounts for around a quarter of deaths in England each year.

Meindert Boysen, Nice deputy chief executive and director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation, said: "Inclisiran represents a potential game-changer in preventing thousands of people from dying prematurely from heart attacks and strokes.

"We're therefore pleased to be able to recommend it as a cost-effective option on the NHS supported by the ground-breaking deal between NHS England and NHS Improvement and Novartis - a deal that could see as many as 300,000 people with high cholesterol or mixed dyslipidaemia who have already had a previous cardiovascular event receive the drug over the next three years."