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News From The Medical Front

Published: December 2, 2010

If it seems too good to be true…

It usually is, but one always hopeful of a great breakthrough. In Chicago last month, the American Heart Association held a conference where data about a new cholesterol-lowering drug had a lot of people excited. Statin drugs, like Lipitor and Zocor, have improved patients cholesterol levels for years, with a healthy effect on heart disease. Merck, however, has a new experimental product showing promise of producing similar but stronger effects. Anacetrapib (an-uh-SEHT-ruh-pib) will not be on the market any time soon; more studies on safety are needed before it can be released to the public. However, Anacetrapib does hold the promise of dramatic increases in good cholesterol, along with similar drops in bad cholesterol. Four years ago Pfizer was developing a related compound, but had to abandon their efforts when it turned out that the drug, Torcetrapib, caused blood pressure problems. One hopes this new drug will fullfill its potential, but as with all new medications, we will have to wait and see.

Speaking of blood pressure….

Researchers at Ardian Inc. of Mountain View, California have developed a system where the pressure sensing nerves that regulate our blood pressure can be altered with radio frequency energy. This is done by inserting a catheter in the groin, as these regulatory nerves are located in arteries running to the kidneys. The physiology behind this approach is sound, and even small reductions in pressure can produce significant reductions in risks for heart disease and stroke. It’s not an approach to be used lightly, but for patients that have failed medical treatments using three or more medications, this may offer some alternative means to control the problem. Again, we hope this will pan out.