WASHINGTON: A new cholesterol-slashing drug that has shown promise for high-risk patients does not impair brain function, according to a study out Saturday. Previous research had raised the possibility that evolocumab, sold under the brand name Repatha by Amgen, may have a damaging effect on memory and cognitive function. Evolocumab is part of a new class of cholesterol-lowering drugs called PCSK9 inhibitors, which dramatically lower bad cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL). The drug has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and death in patients who have severely clogged arteries or previous cardiac problems. But it comes at a hefty price tag of more than $14,000 per year, raising concerns about how many patients could benefit. Aiming to address questions about its cognitive effects, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in collaboration with Brown University and the University of Geneva ran cognitive tests on nearly 2,000 people enrolled in a two-year study of the drug. Researchers assessed the executive function, working memory, episodic memory and psychomotor speed of patients at six, 12, and 24 months after starting treatment. “After an average of 19 months of treatment, our data show that changes in memory and cognitive function were very small and similar between patients treated with evolocumab and those treated with placebo,” said Robert Giugliano, a cardiac doctor at BWH. “These data should reassure physicians and patients who may have had questions about the safety of this drug as it pertains to cognitive impairment.” The research, funded by Amgen, was presented at the American College of Cardiology annual meeting in Washington. Full results are expected to be published in a peer-reviewed journal in the coming months.
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