New drug could treat cholesterol condition common in Franco Americans

7:02 PM, Mar 1, 2013   |    comments
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AUBURN, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Clinical trials out of the Auburn-based Maine Research Associates show a 100 percent success rate for a new drug that reduces cholesterol, even for those genetically predisposed to the condition.

"It could really be a deal breaker for heart disease," said Dr. Robert Weiss, the Director of the Maine Research Associates.

His research team is one of several in the country testing the experimental drug, known by its chemical name, PCSK9.

The new cholesterol drug is an injection, administered once or twice a month.

Results show it reduces cholesterol levels to healthy, "target" levels for 100 percent of the patients in clinical trials.

Typically, statin drugs like Lipitor, reduce cholesterol levels, but often not to target levels for people with a genetic condition called familial hypercholesterolemia, or FH.

FH is particularly common among French Canadians and Franco Americans.

"From Saco and Biddeford, through Lewiston Auburn, up through Northern Maine and into Montreal and Quebec, there's like a ribbon of familial hypercholesterolemia and it just tracks the French Canadian population," said Dr. Weiss.

He said the odds of finding a non-Franco with FH are about 1 in 1,000, while the odds of a Franco with FH are 1 in 50.

Before FDA approval, the study has to show that the new drug not only lowers cholesterol, but also reduces the frequency of heart attacks and strokes.

Dr. Weiss said it could take another two years for that phase of the study to be complete.

The MRA is still looking for volunteers in the clinical trials. To contact, call 207-782-9835, or visit the MRA website.



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