An experimental drug to lower cholesterol has shown promise, according to a study presented Wednesday at a meeting of the American Heart Association.
The drug developed by pharmaceutical giant Merck is known as anacetrapib and showed significant decreases in "bad" cholesterol and likewise boosted "good" cholesterol levels.
The study, which has also been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed drops in LDL levels of cholesterol of 40 percent, while good cholesterol, or HDL levels, were lifted by 138 percent.
"These results are promising and serve as the basis for our decision to further develop anacetrapib," said Michael Mendelsohn, a lead doctor at Merck Research Laboratories.
"We look forward to continuing to study anacetrapib in a large cardiovascular clinical outcomes trial."
The company next aims to launch a 30,000 patient study over several years to determine the drug's effects over a wider sample of the population, and will monitor if the drug can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
The 76-week study just completed showed a two-percent death rate due to cardiac arrest or stroke in patients treated with the drug, compared to 2.6 percent who took a placebo, Merck said.
The trial did not analyze the drug's effects on blood pressure, a problem that forces US lab Pfizer to abandon its bid in 2006 to develop a similar drug.