It was the loudest, most enthusiastic new drug announcement ever.
This Novartis med for heart failure even made the lead story on all the evening news broadcasts.
And the media called it “groundbreaking,” “exciting,” and a “rare breakthrough therapy” that will soon change the way over 6 million Americans with the condition will be treated.
In fact, the drug was said to be so phenomenal that the Novartis study was halted seven months earlier than planned. That way, the med could be zipped through the FDA as soon as possible.
Still only going by its laboratory name, LCZ696, this marvel received extra special “breakthrough status” by the FDA, putting it on a fast track right to your doctor’s office.
But now that all the hoopla from last September’s announcement has quieted down, we’re learning other “exciting” things about LCZ696.
And some researchers are saying that they fear the very way it works might put patients on their own fast track…
One straight to Alzheimer’s.
Curb your enthusiasm
If you or a loved one is suffering from heart failure, I know it can be easy to be swept up in all these exciting announcements.
Doctors certainly were.
One, a cardiologist from Duke University, said that he was so excited he will be switching his patients over to it just as soon as it’s available.
And there’s no doubt many more doctors feel exactly the same way.
But some researchers are saying, “Not so fast.”
This new med blocks an enzyme in your body that naturally breaks down a toxic protein. And that toxic protein is thought to be the likely cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
When you block that protein, the researchers said, you run the risk of accelerating Alzheimer’s by letting “brain-damaging clusters” develop rapidly.
And there’s something else about LCZ696 that you didn’t see on the news shows.
This new med is actually a “chemical cousin” to another “miraculous” heart failure drug that Bristol Myers Squib attempted to bring to market over 10 years ago.
That drug was called “omapatrilat,” and it was so dangerous the FDA actually turned it down.
And you know that doesn’t happen very often.
Omapatrilat had a terrible side effect. It caused a potentially life-threatening swelling in the deep layers of the skin.
But I doubt we’ll see any headlines explaining that when the FDA rules on this new Novartis med.
Of course, we really don’t know how many doctors will start doling it out immediately once it hits Walgreen’s. From what I’m hearing, it certainly won’t be just those with heart failure.
Novartis is counting on this drug to save the company’s fortunes. It’s already drooling over the cash it’s expected to bring in — something experts are saying could be in the ballpark of $10 billion a year.
Yes, you read that right, $10 billion. Every year.
Much like the news outlets, everything the FDA — and your doctor – hear about LCZ696 will be coming directly from Novartis.
Which reminds me of a quote I read recently by Dr. David Kessler, the former FDA chief: “Physicians are rarely in the position to determine whether a drug is safe and effective.”
And from my early research, it looks like this “breakthrough” may not be either.
I will update you as soon as it gets an official name, so you’ll know what to avoid at your next doctor’s visit.
“Investigators link Novartis’ would-be cardio blockbuster to Alzheimer’s risk” John Carroll, February 9, 2015, FierceBiotech, fiercebiotech.com