New, old drugs may offer fresh ways to fight off heart disease

Philadelphia, Pa — Novel drugs may offer fresh ways to reduce heart risks beyond the usual medicines to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

One new study found that heart attack survivors benefited from a medicine long used to treat gout.

Several experimental drugs also showed early promise for interfering with heart-harmful genes without modifying the genes themselves — in one case, with treatment just twice a year.

The research was featured at an American Heart Association conference ending Monday in Philadelphia.

“There’s a lot of excitement” about the new gene-targeting medicines, especially because they seem to last so long, said Dr. Karol Watson, of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Scientists have been exploring gene therapy — altering DNA — to attack the root cause of many diseases.

The new drugs essentially accomplish the same thing without tampering with genes, said the University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Daniel Rader, who has consulted for some makers of these drugs.

The medicines work by silencing or blocking messages that genes give to cells to make proteins that can do harm, such as allowing cholesterol to accumulate.

The first few of these “RNA-interference” drugs recently were approved for other conditions, and research is also targeting heart disease.

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