A wonder drug for heart disease that isn’t that wonderful

ON AUGUST 27th the results of a trial of an anti-inflammatory medicine called canakinumab were released at a meeting, in Barcelona, of the European Society of Cardiology. Press reports were gushing, telling of a fabulous new drug that would cut the risk of heart attacks and cancer at the same time. The coverage was so positive that people reading or hearing it might have been forgiven for wondering when this treatment would be available to everyone. The answer is probably “never”, for canakinumab’s benefits have been greatly oversold. This trial was, nevertheless, important. Though it offered no immediate treatment, it confirmed what has long been suspected—that inflammation is an important factor in heart disease.

It has been common knowledge for decades that one way to reduce someone’s risk of having a heart attack is to keep his cholesterol levels low. But that is only part of the story. About half of heart attacks happen to those who have what are considered…Continue reading
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