Statins, the cholesterol lowering medications, have been known as the go-to treatment for heart disease for the past 25 years. While statins may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, there is still a risk. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine are now looking for additional or alternative treatment options.

"We know statins work in preventing heart attacks, but some people still go on to have cardiac events," said Dr. Christie Ballantyne, professor of medicine and section chief of cardiology and cardiovascular research in the Department of Medicine at BCM. "We are now investigating what other therapies, alone or in addition to a statin, can further reduce the chances of having a heart attack."

Affect of cholesterol levels

While on statins, some people still have high levels of LDL cholesterol, known as the bad cholesterol, and low levels of HDL cholesterol, the good cholesterol. Researchers are investigating whether improving these levels will help prevent further risk of heart attacks and stroke.

Ballantyne, who is also the director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at the Methodist DeBakey Heart Center and co-director of Lipid Metabolism and Atherosclerosis Clinic at The Methodist Hospital, is involved in two multi-institutional studies looking to answer those questions.


The Randomized EValuation of the Effects of Anacetrapib through Lipid-modification study uses a pill that works as a protein inhibitor. It has been shown to raise HDL by over 100 percent while also lowering LDL cholesterol by nearly 40 percent. When combined with statins, it has shown to lower LDL even further.

"In this study we know how the inhibitor affects cholesterol levels, but we are investigating whether it will actually prevent future heart attacks and strokes in patients who have already had one of these cardiovascular events," said Ballantyne.

For Houston study details, call (713) 798-3171. To find other study locations, email

Antibody Study

An antibody that inhibits PCSK9, a protein that plays a role in the clearance of LDL cholesterol from the blood, is also being studied as an addition to statin treatment.

In a past study, the antibody was injected into the body and shown to decrease LDL cholesterol levels by more than 50 percent.

The current study is now looking at how this injectable treatment acts in addition to statin therapy in patients who still have elevated levels of LDL cholesterol.

"There are many reasons some people just can’t seem to reach optimal levels of LDL even when on statins," said Ballantyne. "That is why we need an alternative to help patients reach their optimal levels to help prevent death related to heart disease and get them back on the path to improving their health."