A trial involving an anti-inflammatory drug could represent the biggest breakthrough in the treatment of heart attacks and strokes since statins were introduced to help lower cholesterol, its authors say.
The study of 10,000 patients found that anti-inflammatory drug canakinumab reduced the risk of a patient who had already had a heart attack having another one in the future. The four-year trial saw patients receive high doses of statins as well as either canakinumab or a placebo. Those who received canakinumab were found to be 15% less likely to suffer from a cardiovascular event than their counterparts who received the placebo.
Furthermore, cancer deaths were also halved in patients who received canakinumab.
The results, which have been referred to as “exciting” by the British Heart Foundation, are thought to be down to the effect of the anti-inflammatory drug on unchecked inflammation within the heart’s arteries.
Presenting their results at the European Society of Cardiology meeting, held in Barcelona, Spain, the research team from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, led by the study's lead author Dr Paul Ridker, said the study represented "a milestone in a long journey".
"For the first time, we've been able to definitively show that lowering inflammation independent of cholesterol reduces cardiovascular risk.
"This has far-reaching implications."
It is thought the trial could now lead to new types of treatment for heart attacks and strokes being developed.