Statins, also known as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, are a class of lipid-lowering medications that reduce illness and mortality in those who are at high risk of cardiovascular disease, which is the most common cholesterol-lowering drugs
Statins help lower the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood. LDL Cholesterol is often referred to as the "bad cholesterol", and statins reduce the production of it inside the liver.
Having a high level of LDL Cholesterol is potentially dangerous, as it can led to a hardening and narrowing of the arteries (commonly known as "atherosclerosis") and Cardiovascular Disease (CVD).
CVD is a general term that describes a disease of the heart or blood vessels. It is the most common cause of death in the UK - but can be preventable, depending on your lifestyle.
There are four main causes of CVD. These are:
- Coronary Heart Disease - when the blood supply to the heart becomes restricted.
- Angina - which is chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart muscles.
- Heart Attacks - when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked.
- Stroke - when the supply of blood to the brain becomes blocked.
Statins normally come in the form of tablets, and the side effects are small. However, a major study has said a game-changing, twice-yearly jab could soon replace statins for millions of Brits. In fact they concluded "it was significantly more effective than cholesterol-busting pills". The medicine, called Inclisirian, slashed levels of bad fats in the blood by half without causing unpleasant side-effects. In comparison, low-dose statins - taken by around eight million UK residents, reduce readings by around a third.
Imperial College London, who presented their research at the European Society of Cardiology congress in Paris, attended by the world's largest gathering of heart experts, called the results "phenomenal".
Inclisirian, which could be on the market within two years, works by silencing genes in the liver that stop the body breaking down cholesterol. Experts have said that at least 700,000 high risk patients should initially be given this ground-breaking jab. And in the long term there are suggestions it could replace statins to guard against heart disease and stroke. It would certainly be more convenient than taking daily pills, but obviously the cost has to be affordable. NHS already offers two cholesterol jabs but these are fortnightly and cost more than £4000 a year.