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Another drugmaker abandons plans to boost ‘good’ cholesterol

Cross posted from Nature Medicine’s Spoonful of Medicine blog on behalf of Elie Dolgin.

There’s bad news out today for ‘good cholesterol’ drugs. More than five years after New York’s Pfizer made waves for pulling the plug on torcetrapib—a drug designed to elevate blood levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or ‘good’ cholesterol—Roche is now making a similar move.

The Swiss pharma giant announced plans to halt development of its own HDL-raising compound, dalcetrapib, after an interim independent review of the company’s pivotal 15,000-person trial found no signs of clinically meaningful efficacy. Unlike torcetrapib, which was linked with an increased risk of heart attacks, no problematic safety signals were detected for dalcetrapib. “We are disappointed by the fact that this drug didn’t provide benefit to the patients in our study,” Hal Barron, Roche’s chief medical officer, said in a statement.

As we reported last July, studies of various drugs have cast doubt on the idea that raising HDL cholesterol levels will translate into robust clinical benefits for patients.

There are still some experts holding out hope, though. Robert Rosenson, director of cardiometabolic disorders at the Mount Sinai Heart Institute inNew York, thinks that other HDL modulators in clinical testing—including Merck’s anacetrapib and Eli Lilly’s evacetrapib—could hold therapeutic promise. “It would be a mistake to close the door on this class of compounds,” he says. “I don’t believe that the failure of dalcetrapib will mean that these agents are not going to be efficacious in the right populations.”


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