New Cholesterol Drugs: Low Adverse Events, Long-Term Unknown

Side Effects for New Cholesterol Drugs Low, But Long-Term Effects Unknown
Close-up of injection syringe and fluid droplets over black. Shot with Canon 20D.
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Patients taking the newest class of cholesterol-lowering drugs do not experience any more side effects than those on a placebo, though those on a PCSK9 inhibitor may have an increased risk for cataracts.

Researchers conducted a meta-analysis – a study of studies – that included 5,234 patients treated with Praluent (alirocumab), a PCSK9 that is given by injection, for up to 2 years. Side effects were similar in patients taking Praluent compared to those on a placebo, the researchers reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Side effects observed included musculoskeletal disorders, neurologic and neurocognitive conditions (including memory impairment), and renal or liver problems. However, analyses indicated an increased incidence of cataracts in patients with low LDL levels. The researchers believe this could be because lowering cholesterol speeds up underlying aging-related changes, contributing to cataracts.

However, Dr. Jennifer Robinson, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at the University of Iowa and the study’s lead author, noted that the long-term effects of PCSK9 treatment are still unknown and cholesterol-lowering drugs should remain the preferred therapy to achieve cardiovascular risk reduction.

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