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Study finds new anti-inflammatory drug which reduces risk of repeat heart attack

A recent study led by Dr Paul Ridker of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston has found that a new type of medication, an anti-inflammatory drug called Canakinumab, could significantly reduce a person’s risk of having a second heart attack.


5 September 2017

The study was undertaken using 10,061 patients from 39 different countries all of whom had previously suffered a heart attack. Each of the patients was treated with one dose of Canakinumab once every three months for a period of up to four years.

A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, can be life threatening if not treated urgently. They are triggered by a blockage of the blood supply to the heart, usually as a result of a blood clot. The heart then becomes starved of oxygen causing damage to the heart.

The focus of treating a heart attack is to remove the blood clot and restore blood flow to the heart. The quicker this is done, the less likely there is to be lasting damage. 

However, once a person has suffered a heart attack, they are at an increased risk of a further attack. There are lifestyle changes that can be made to reduce the risk of having another attack as well as treatment in the form of long-term medication.

Currently such long-term medication includes:
  • ACE Inhibitors – The purpose of this medication is to lower and regulate blood pressure.
  • Anti-Platelets – The purpose of this medication is to prevent blood clots.
  • Beta Blockers – The purpose of this medication is to prevent any further damage and strain to the heart by relaxing it.
  • Statins – The purpose of this medication is to prevent any further damage to your coronary arteries (arteries that transport blood into and out of the heart) by lowering blood cholesterol (a fatty substance that is carried around the body in the blood) level.

Despite the existence of the above medication, currently 25% of people who have had a heart attack will go on to suffer a second heart attack within five years. 

Canakinumab works by reducing inflammation in the body, most notably in the coronary arteries, which in turn reduces the risk of a heart attack. It is not without its side effects however as the study also reported that Canakinumab is associated with an increased incidence of fatal infection (1 in every 1000 people treated). 

The study has also indicated that Canakinumab might have the benefit of limiting growth in certain cancers, in particular lung cancer; however further research in this respect is required before any formal conclusions are drawn. 

Lawyer Charlotte Cooper from the medical negligence team at Leigh Day said: 

“Heart attacks can affect anyone of any age and can have devastating consequences if not treated immediately. The results from this new drug suggest that it may help reduce the risk of a further heart attack from happening and in turn help to save lives which is very positive news.”

Heart Attack - the key signs and symptoms:
  • Chest Pain (a sensation of pressure, tightness or squeezing in the centre of your chest)
  • Pain in other parts of the body such as the arms (usually the left arm is affected but it can affect both arms), jaw, neck, back and abdomen
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomiting)
  • An overwhelming sense of anxiety (similar to having a panic attack)
  • Coughing or wheezing

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