New Discoveries Mean an Exciting Future for Treating High Cholesterol!

Late spring means it is time for me to attend the annual National Lipid Association Scientific Sessions.  Last week I traveled to Philadelphia to hear all the latest news on the diagnosis and treatment of 'all things lipid-related'.  It is an exciting time to meet up with colleagues from around the nation and understand what new advances may be helpful for my patients here at home.  I am also honored to now teach a course called the Lipid Academy at these sessions and share my experiences in managing complex cholesterol problems with aspiring lipidologists.  This year I was amazed at the growing role that genetics (DNA testing) is playing in the diagnosis of cholesterol problems and the future treatments currently being created and tested.  Once we have better genetic tests available to find the exact type of cholesterol problem each person has, then we will begin to have personalized treatments for each specific diagnosis.  "Precision medicine" is on its way, I do believe!  

One of the first tastes of precision medicine is the "PCSK9 inhibitor" class of treatments. The PCSK9 inhibitors were made possible after discovering the role of the PCSK9 protein.  This protein was discovered through genetic testing of people with severely elevated LDL cholesterol, a problem called Familial Hypercholesterolemia, or "FH".  These treatments, an injection every 2 weeks, have now been on the market for almost 2 years and have been life-changing for many people with more severe LDL cholesterol problems, including those intolerant to statin medications.  Now there are many additional medications in the development pipeline for not only LDL cholesterol but also many for severe triglyceride problems that will be equally life-changing we hope!  

The main thing we struggle with as new therapies are emerging?  The very high costs of those new therapies!  I am so thankful to our wonderful staff at Mobile Health Team for working tirelessly to fill out prior authorization forms and help our patients apply for programs to help cover the costs of these treatments.  While nationally only 25-50% of these medication requests are ultimately approved, our success rate of getting these medications for patients who qualify and want to begin them is greater than 96%!  

While I am excited for new drug therapies for our patients who need them, the NLA conference also reinforced the importance of a healthy lifestyle in preventing heart disease and diabetes.  Whether you have an inherited risk for disease or not, scientific studies are still showing that healthy living can lower your risk signficantly at any age.  On our blog you can find helpful tips on how to incorporate healthier food into your family's diet, where to find fresh produce, and the positive effects of keeping hydrated this summer. We also share ideas on ways to keep your family moving. Try gradually adding these recommendations into your routine. The main goal is for you to feel good, allowing you to enjoy your summer even more!  Enjoy the longer days and warmer weather!

-Dr Ann