A PILL used to treat arthritis could hold the key to beating heart disease.
Thousands of lives could be saved each year if the treatment proves a success, with high-risk patients taking the drug as a preventative measure.
Heart and circulatory diseases claim 200,000 lives each year in the UK, accounting for one in three deaths.
Heart disease alone kills 88,000 people annually making prevention a major health priority.
New research has found that inflammation plays a major role in the development of coronary heart disease.Two international genetic studies of 300,000 people by Cambridge University and University College London pinpointed a specific protein.
It now means that anti-inflammatory drugs currently used to treat rheumatoid arthritis could also be used to reduce atherosclerosis – the build up of fatty deposits in arteries.
One such drug, tocilizumab, is already prescribed to sufferers from rheumatoid arthritis. Experts have long suspected that inflammation plays a role in heart disease, but until now no clear link has been found.
The new research was published online in The Lancet medical journal.
Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, which co-funded the studies, said: “These studies provide very strong evidence that new medicines which reduce inflammation could be a powerful tool in helping to combat heart disease.”