Scientists have said a new anti-inflammatory drug can prevent deaths from heart attacks and cancer.

The drug, canakinumab, is said to cut the risk of heart attack by one-quarter.

Canakinumab is given by injection every three months and it works by lessening inflammation in the body.

According to the scientists, the discovery is the biggest breakthrough in treatment since statins.

During the study that spanned four years, 10,000 heart attack victims were given canakinumab injections and the research team reported a 15% reduction in the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Paul Ridker, who presented the findings at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Barcelona, said it opens up a “third front” in the war against heart disease.

“These findings represent the end game of more than two decades of research, stemming from a critical observation: Half of heart attacks occur in people who do not have high cholesterol,” Ridker said.

“For the first time, we’ve been able to definitively show that lowering inflammation independent of cholesterol reduces cardiovascular risk.

“In my lifetime, I’ve gotten to see three broad eras of preventative cardiology.

“In the first, we recognized the importance of diet, exercise and smoking cessation. In the second, we saw the tremendous value of lipid-lowering drugs such as statins. Now, we’re cracking the door open on the third era.”

It currently costs around £40,000 annually to treat a patient with the drug.

The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.



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