high cholesterol in ‘high-risk’ Australians
Sydney – 1 August 2021 – Experts are welcoming the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) listing of a medicine that helps reduce unacceptably high ‘bad cholesterol’ and the risk of cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke.
Known as Praluent® (alirocumab) and injected once or twice a month, the medicine counters high cholesterol (LDL-C) by targeting a protein in the body called PCSK9 and causing the liver to draw more cholesterol out of the blood stream. It is used in addition to two common cholesterol-lowering medicines (a statin and ezetimibe).
From today, around 20,000 Australian adults, including those with a history of cardiovascular disease symptoms together with an inherited cholesterol disorder or additional high risk factors, and whose LDL-cholesterol remains above 2.6 mmol/L despite dietary therapy, exercise and taking high-dose cholesterol-lowering medicines (a statin and ezetimibe), may be eligible for Praluent under the PBS. Without a subsidy, the therapy would cost up to $6,500 a year.
Associate Professor James Shaw, Cardiologist at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, welcomed the PBS listing of Praluent, highlighting that almost 100,000 heart attacks and strokes occur in Australia each year.
“Many patients with a type of cardiovascular disease arising from arteries that have been narrowed by the build-up of fatty deposits have stubbornly high LDL-cholesterol that places them at high-risk of repeat cardiovascular events.”
“When it comes to LDL-cholesterol, research shows that lower is better, particularly in people with a history of heart disease,” he said.
Australian guidelines for cholesterol management recommend an LDL-cholesterol goal of
“The trouble is that, despite treatment with cholesterol lowering medicines, nearly half of all high cardiovascular risk patients managed by GPs are not meeting the recommended LDL-cholesterol targets,” said Dr Shaw.
“That is why the PBS listing of an additional cholesterol-lowering therapy is very much welcomed,” he said.
For Australians who survive a major cardiac event, the risk of a repeat event persists for many years but is highest in the first 12 months. More than a third of all admissions to hospital for acute coronary syndrome (sudden, reduced blood flow to the heart, including heart attack) involve patients who have suffered a previous cardiovascular event.10
“There are some patients who find themselves in a pattern of returning to hospital time and time again with heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular complications,” said Dr Shaw.
“We need greater awareness of the importance of proactive cholesterol management, and of the benefits of combining healthy eating, lifestyle modification and medicine to achieve target levels, especially among people who have already suffered a cardiovascular event,” he concluded.
Sanofi ANZ General Manager Karen Hood welcomed the PBS listing of Praluent and reaffirmed the company’s commitment to help support Australians from the risk of recurring cardiovascular events linked to elevated LDL-C.
“Sanofi has a long and proud heritage in cardiovascular medicine,” she said. “We are pleased to be doing our part in supporting the way unacceptably high cholesterol is managed in people at high risk of repeat cardiovascular events.”