New Vaccine May Be Better & Cheaper Answer For Seniors With High Cholesterol

Healthy Living

December 1, 2015

Dr. Bryce Chackerian, with the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology of the University of New Mexico co-authored a study in the journal Vaccine revealing that a new vaccine had significant success in reducing the bad cholesterol (LDL) in mice and monkeys, suggesting that the vaccine would also be successful in humans. The study can be very good news to the 73.5 million people (31.7 percent) in the United States, many of whom are seniors, who have high cholesterol and are currently taking statins, which can have serious side effects, especially in the elderly.

Currently statin drugs are used to treat high cholesterol in an effort to reduce the build-up of heart attack and stroke causing plaque in the arteries, heart disease is a leading cause of death in Americans. However, statin drugs can be very expensive and typically when prescribed is for the lifetime of the patient. And though statins can be highly effective in lowering cholesterol, the side effects can cause serious liver damage, an increased risk of diabetes, problems with the digestive system and muscle pain which can produce added risk for falling in elderly patients that can result in life threatening injury. The new vaccine may produce equal or better outcomes for people with high blood pressure at a much lower cost and without the side effects of statin drugs.

Statistics show that only fifty percent of people in the U.S. with high cholesterol are under a doctor’s supervision, taking medication to treat it, or are having their cholesterol levels checked as recommended. Yet, just as obesity and diabetes is rising at alarming rates so too is the number of people being treated for high cholesterol. But it is also rising through education, the number of adults being treated for high LDL cholesterol in Americans has risen from 28.4 percent in 2002 to 41.8 percent in 2008. Also the awareness of the dangers of high LDL cholesterol has increased through educating people on checking their cholesterol levels, and healthier diet and lifestyle choices the percentage of Americans with high total cholesterol decreased from 18.3 percent of Americans in 1999 to 12.9 percent in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

How The Vaccine Works

The vaccine that the researchers created produced a virus-like particle vaccine that creates a strong antibody reaction to PCSK9. PCSK9 is a cholesterol regulating protein in the blood that works by binding to LDL cholesterol in the blood. The LDL receptor removes the LDL cholesterol in the blood, this takes place in the liver, but when PCSK9 binds to the LDL receptor the liver no longer has the ability to remove it. When the vaccine blocks the PCSK9 the LDL receptor is able to remove LDL cholesterol from the blood.

The researcher’s new vaccine is not the first treatment to target PCSK9; the FDA approved a drug (injection) that also blocks PCSK9, it is to be used in conjunction with statin drug therapy and a healthy diet. It is called evolocumab, a monoclonal antibody therapy which also lowers LDL cholesterol, but comes with a very high price tag, in excess of $10,000 dollars a year. For most people with high cholesterol the combined cost of statins and the monoclonal antibody therapy is not financially a treatment option.


Dr. Chackerian states that not only do the researchers believe the new vaccine will work better than the other therapies, but it will also be a much more affordable treatment plan. And when you think in terms of helping control high cholesterol in people the vaccine will be affordable not just to Americans, but people all over the world. That could have a significant effect on worldwide health and longevity. Dr. Chackerian and his fellow researchers intend to conduct further studies on monkeys and partner with commercial backers to bring the vaccine to fruition for humans.