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Tuesday, 16 April, 2002, 04:50 GMT 05:50 UK
Drug raises 'good' cholesterol
Pill could help reduce risk of heart disease
A new experimental drug has been shown significantly to raise levels of "good" cholesterol in the body.

"Good" cholesterol - or high density lipoproteins (HDL) - helps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by transporting unhealthy fats to the liver where they are broken down.

Medication may not always be the most relevant treatment for reducing risks of coronary heart disease

Belinda Linden
Levels of good cholesterol were raised by 34% among people who were given the new drug in just four weeks.

The drug also helped to cut levels of "bad" cholesterol in some patients.

"Bad" cholesterol - low density lipoproteins (LDL) - contribute to furring of the arteries. It can be effectively controlled by the use of statin drugs.

The new drug, called a CETP inhibitor, works by blocking the action of a protein which lowers levels of "good" cholesterol in the body.

Asian people tend to have a high level of "good" cholesterol because they carry a defective version of this protein.

Researcher Dr John Kastelein, from the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, said the only side effect of the drug was some mild stomach problems.

He said: "Although these results hold promise, further studies are needed to investigate whether the increase in HDL cholesterol translates into a reduction in coronary artery disease risk."

Dr Kastelein told BBC News Online that a 30% increase in "good" cholesterol could cut the risk of cardiovascular disease by as much as 40%.

He predicted that a drug could be widely available in five years.

Nice in theory

Belinda Linden, head of medical information at the British Heart Foundation, told BBC News Online that a drug that raised "good" cholesterol and lowering "bad" cholesterol should theoretically reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

However, she echoed the researchers' caution, and said the benefits could only be fully ascertained by further research.

She said: "Medication may not always be the most relevant treatment for reducing risks of coronary heart disease.

"People can lower LDL cholesterol and maintain or improve HDL levels by reducing their saturated fat intake and doing brisk physical activity."

The research is published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

See also:

13 Nov 01 | Health
Heart drugs could save thousands
29 Oct 99 | Health
Half unaware of cholesterol risk
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