Watch: NHS to roll out new cholesterol-lowering drug that 'could save 30,000 lives'
Hundreds of thousands of people in England and Wales may soon have access to a cholesterol-lowering jab that could save 30,000 lives within the next decade.
Inclisiran, which is given as a twice-yearly injection, will be offered to 300,000 people over the next three years after it was approved by medical standards organisation Nice.
The health watchdog is recommending it as an option for people who have had a heart attack or stroke and are unresponsive to other cholesterol-lowering treatments.
According to draft advice, inclisiran can lower "bad" fat in the blood when other cheaper drugs, like statins, have not done enough.
The revolutionary treatment is being rolled out across the NHS following clinical trials that showed it lowers the level of a type of fatty substance called LDL-C found in the blood.
High levels of LDL-C make people more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.
Experts hope it will help to cut the risk of further life-threatening cardiovascular events, estimating that the drug could prevent 55,000 heart attacks and strokes over 10 years.
Heart disease is the world’s biggest killer and annually accounts for around a quarter of deaths in England, with 140,000 people dying from the condition each year.
Watch: 10 foods that can help prevent high cholesterol
Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of the NHS, said: "Heart disease is still one of the major killer conditions so it is fantastic that we now have such an effective and convenient treatment for those living with dangerously high cholesterol levels.
"This world-leading deal for the roll out of inclisiran will save lives and enable hundreds of thousands of people to benefit from this revolutionary treatment, while also being fair to taxpayers."
Under a deal between NHS England and Swiss manufacturer Novartis, the programme will begin within a month.
Nurses will be able to administer inclisiran as an injection in GP surgeries across England, meaning patients can avoid regular visits to hospital.
After an initial dose, the drug will be given again after three months and then twice a year.
Commenting on the news, Nice deputy CEO Meindert Boysen, director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation, said: "Inclisiran represents a potential game-changer in preventing thousands of people dying prematurely from heart attacks and strokes.
"We're therefore pleased to be able to recommend it as a cost effective option on the NHS."
Last week, the NHS announced that everyone aged 40 and over will be offered a free blood pressure check at high-street pharmacies in a move that will prevent thousands of strokes and heart attacks and save an estimated 2,000 lives.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance – a lipid – that is found in some foods and also produced in the liver.
According to the NHS, high cholesterol is when you have too much of it in your blood.
More than two in five people in England have high cholesterol, which puts them at significant risk of developing heart disease.
Too much cholesterol can block your blood vessels. It makes you more likely to have heart problems or a stroke.
High cholesterol is mainly caused by eating fatty food, not exercising enough, being overweight, smoking and/or drinking alcohol, but it can also run in families.
You can lower your cholesterol by eating healthily and getting more exercise. Some people also need to take medicine – around 6.5 million adults in England are currently taking lipid-lowering drugs such as statins.