Experimental feature

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Experimental feature

Amgen said a large clinical trial of its new cholesterol-lowering drug showed that the medicine “significantly reduced” the risk of patients dying from heart disease, having a stroke or suffering from a “cardiovascular event”.

Shares in the biotech company jumped by more than 3 per cent in after-hours trading in New York.

The drug, Repatha, was tested over three* years in 27,500 patients to see if it would reduce the long-term risk of patients suffering from deadly cardiovascular events like heart attacks, rather than simply reducing LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

Analysts have touted the new cholesterol-lowering drug, a so-called PCSK9 inhibitor, as an alternative to the statins taken by millions of people to prevent heart attacks and strokes, which would make it one of the most lucrative medicines in years.

Sales of PCSK9 inhibitors have been sluggish since they were launched at the end of 2015, as healthcare systems and insurers have balked at the price tag — $14,000 a year versus just a few cents a day for generic statins.

But analysts expect US sales of Repatha to surge to about $4bn a year if the long-term studies show they can significantly reduce the chances of patients suffering a deadly cardiovascular event.

Amgen did not give details on the scale of the benefits from taking the drug, which will remain under wraps until next month when the full study is unveiled at a medical meeting.

Dr Walid Gellad, a physician and academic, said that simply hitting the trial targets was “not enough given [the] cost” and that the full study would have to demonstrate a “big improvement” when published.

“These results show unequivocally the connection between lowering LDL cholesterol with Repatha and cardiovascular risk reduction, even in a population already treated with optimised statin therapy,” said Dr Sean Harper, executive vice president of research and development at Amgen.

“Cardiovascular disease remains the number one health burden in the world, and we look forward to sharing these outcomes data with the scientific community.”

*This post has been amended to correct the length of the trial.

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