Combatting cholesterol

New hope for patients unable to lower their cholesterol levels with traditional drugs

September 22, 2015

Research conducted by Dr. Nabil Seidah and his team, all CIHR-funded researchers, has led to the development of a powerful new drug to treat high cholesterol. This new medication, which has even surpassed the researchers’ expectations for efficacy, is slated to hit the Canadian market soon.

A world-renowned expert, Dr. Seidah is leading revolutionary research into PCSK9, an enzyme that plays a key role in regulating receptors of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), commonly known as bad cholesterol. By helping the liver to clean out bad cholesterol from the bloodstream, the new drug produces a dramatic 60% LDL reduction in patients, many of whom did not respond to conventional treatment.

This discovery is an exciting breakthrough in the treatment of cardiovascular disease, a leading cause of death in the industrialized world and responsible for 1 in 4 of all deaths in Canada.

Dr.Nabil Seidah

Audio interview


This is David Coulombe for CIHR News. A new class of effective cholesterol lowering drugs could soon be on the market. To talk about this today, we have Dr. Nabil Seidah. He is a Canadian Institutes of Health Research funded researcher.

David: Doctor Seidah, welcome.

Dr. Seidah: Thank you.

David: Doctor Seidah, first question: Is high cholesterol still a major problem in Canada?

Dr. Seidah: Yes, I think it’s a major problem and it’s increasing in its incidences. We really need to address this and lower it as much as we can.

David: Any data on this?

Dr. Seidah: Yes! It’s recommended now to have a level of cholesterol of at least below 150 milligrams per deciliter, hopefully below 100. I would say at least 30 to 40 percent of Canadians have about 250 and higher. It’s very high.

David: The good news is that you and some other people have discovered something very important. How important is your discovery?

Dr. Seidah: We describe it as revolutionary because for people who do not tolerate common drugs that are used right now, known as statins, they have no choice, they have no treatment and they are at high risk of developing a cardio-vascular disease. With this new treatment of blocking PCSK9, they are able to respond very well and they drop their cholesterol levels by 60 percent, an unusual, whopping decrease. It can happen to anybody, you don’t have to be cholesterol resistant to statin, all of us respond so it seems to be a drug that will be applicable to everybody.

David: This is a major discovery because like you said, there are a lot of drugs on the market for high blood cholesterol, but this one is different. This one tackles the ones that could not benefit from the drugs that we actually see on the market.

Dr. Seidah: Not only that, it tackles people who even with the drugs available can’t drop their cholesterol level to recommended levels. They cannot reach it with the drugs available. With this drug, they will not only reach it, but they’ll go way below it.

David: So we are talking about powerful?

Dr. Seidah: Extremely powerful, unexpectedly so.

David: What are the next steps?

Dr. Seidah: The [US Food and Drug Administration] FDA just approved, two days ago, this drug in the United States and it should be on the market in August and September, because there are two companies. In Canada, we expect to have it by the end of December.

David: So once more, research has prevailed.

Dr. Seidah: That’s right, unexpectedly from bench to bedside. This is what research is all about: you don’t plan it, but when you get it, it’s a lot of fun.

David: Doctor Seidah, thank you very much.

Dr. Seidah: Thank you.

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