Archive for the ‘Lipid metabolism’ Category

Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.


Food is digested by bathing in enzymes that break down its molecules. Those molecular fragments then pass through the gut wall and are absorbed in our intestines. But our bodies make a limited range of enzymes, so that we cannot break down many of the tough compounds in plants. The term “dietary fiber” refers to those indigestible molecules. These dietary fibers are indigestible only to us. The gut is coated with a layer of mucus, on which sits a carpet of hundreds of species of bacteria, part of the human microbiome. Some of these microbes carry the enzymes needed to break down various kinds of dietary fibers.


Scientists at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden are running experiments that are yielding some important new clues about fiber’s role in human health. Their research indicates that fiber doesn’t deliver many of its benefits directly to our bodies. Instead, the fiber we eat feeds billions of bacteria in our guts. Keeping them happy means our intestines and immune systems remain in good working order. The scientists have recently reported that the microbes are involved in the benefits obtained from the fruits-and-vegetables diet. Research proved that low fiber diet decreases the gut bacteria population by tenfold.


Along with changes to the microbiome there were also rapid changes observed in the experimental mice. Their intestines got smaller, and its mucus layer thinner. As a result, bacteria wound up much closer to the intestinal wall, and that encroachment triggered an immune reaction. After a few days on the low-fiber diet, mouse intestines developed chronic inflammation. After a few weeks, they started putting on fat and developing higher blood sugar levels. Inflammation can help fight infections, but if it becomes chronic, it can harm our bodies. Among other things, chronic inflammation may interfere with how the body uses the calories in food, storing more of it as fat rather than burning it for energy.


In a way fiber benefits human health is by giving, indirectly, another source of food. When bacteria finished harvesting the energy in the dietary fiber, they cast off the fragments as waste. That waste — in the form of short-chain fatty acids — is absorbed by intestinal cells, which use it as fuel. But the gut’s microbes do more than just make energy. They also send messages. Intestinal cells rely on chemical signals from the bacteria to work properly. The cells respond to the signals by multiplying and making a healthy supply of mucus. They also release bacteria-killing molecules. By generating these responses, gut bacteria help to maintain a peaceful coexistence with the immune system. They rest on the gut’s mucus layer at a safe distance from the intestinal wall. Any bacteria that wind up too close get wiped out by antimicrobial poisons.


A diet of fiber-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, reduces the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. Eating more fiber seems to lower people’s mortality rate, whatever be the cause. Researchers hope that they will learn more about how fiber influences the microbiome to use it as a way to treat disorders. Lowering inflammation with fiber may also help in the treatment of immune disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease. Fiber may also help reverse obesity. They found that fiber supplements helped obese people to lose weight. It’s possible that each type of fiber feeds a particular set of bacteria, which send their own important signals to our bodies.





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 Cholesterol Lowering Novel PCSK9 drugs: Praluent [Sanofi and Regeneron] vs Repatha [Amgen] – which drug cuts CV risks enough to make it cost-effective?

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN


Did Amgen’s Repatha cut CV risks enough to make it cost-effective? Analysts say no

Sanofi, Regeneron’s Praluent pulls off PCSK9 coup with 29% cut to death risks in most vulnerable patients
SEE our curations on PCSK9 drugs:

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ODYSSEY Outcomes trial evaluating the effects of a PCSK9 inhibitor, alirocumab, on major cardiovascular events in patients with an acute coronary syndrome to be presented at the American College of Cardiology meeting on March 10.

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN


For PCSK9 inhibitors, the effect on major adverse cardiovascular events has always fallen short of expectations based on cholesterol lowering.

But cardiovascular risk reduction is complicated. There is more to the puzzle than cholesterol. Some drugs lower both cholesterol and prevent cardiovascular events, but some people think that the two effects are actually not that closely related.

Milton Packer MD

In a previous trial (FOURIER), another PCSK9 inhibitor had only a modest benefit on its primary endpoint, and it did not reduce cardiovascular death, although the magnitude of cholesterol lowering was striking.

In another trial (SPIRE), a third PCSK9 inhibitor, the clinical trial was terminated prematurely by Pfizer because of reduction of the effect of the drug (a humanized but not fully humanized antibody) due to development of neutralizing antibodies in some of the patients. Actually, in patients treated for more than a year who did not develop neutralizing antibodies, a beneficial effect was seen.

The ODYSSEY Outcomes trial is evaluating the effects of a PCSK9 inhibitor,alirocumab, on major cardiovascular events in patients with an acute coronary syndrome within the prior year. The drug lowers serum cholesterol dramatically, and some are hopeful that that effect will translate into an important reduction in the risk of major adverse cardiovascular events. If you believe that cholesterol reduction inevitably leads to the prevention of cardiovascular death, myocardial infarction and stroke, then you would have high expectations for the ODYSSEY trial.

ODYSSEY. The trial uses a somewhat more aggressive treatment strategy and has a longer follow-up period than its predecessors. So maybe the benefit will be large. Maybe the drug will even reduce cardiovascular death or all-cause mortality.

In order to enrich the population for cardiovascular events, the trial enrolled patients with an acute coronary syndrome within the prior year. These patients are at high risk of having a recurrence. The problem is that risk is not necessarily related to changes in cholesterol, especially the events occurring early in the trial. And in this type of trial, the analysis tends to give extra weight to early events.

Trials like ODYSSEY are often designed to stop early if the results are unbelievably impressive. The ODYSSEY trial wasn’t stopped early.

the patients entering the ODYSSEY trial are starting out with a serum LDL <100 mg/dL or even <90 mg/dL. Is cholesterol really playing an important role at that level, especially when compared with noncholesterol factors?


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  1. Lungs can supply blood stem cells and also produce platelets: Lungs, known primarily for breathing, play a previously unrecognized role in blood production, with more than half of the platelets in a mouse’s circulation produced there. Furthermore, a previously unknown pool of blood stem cells has been identified that is capable of restoring blood production when bone marrow stem cells are depleted.


  1. A new drug for multiple sclerosis: A new multiple sclerosis (MS) drug, which grew out of the work of UCSF (University of California, San Francisco) neurologist was approved by the FDA. Ocrelizumab, the first drug to reflect current scientific understanding of MS, was approved to treat both relapsing-remitting MS and primary progressive MS.


  1. Marijuana legalized – research needed on therapeutic possibilities and negative effects: Recreational marijuana will be legal in California starting in January, and that has brought a renewed urgency to seek out more information on the drug’s health effects, both positive and negative. UCSF scientists recognize marijuana’s contradictory status: the drug has proven therapeutic uses, but it can also lead to tremendous public health problems.


  1. Source of autism discovered: In a finding that could help unlock the fundamental mysteries about how events early in brain development lead to autism, researchers traced how distinct sets of genetic defects in a single neuronal protein can lead to either epilepsy in infancy or to autism spectrum disorders in predictable ways.


  1. Protein found in diet responsible for inflammation in brain: Ketogenic diets, characterized by extreme low-carbohydrate, high-fat regimens are known to benefit people with epilepsy and other neurological illnesses by lowering inflammation in the brain. UCSF researchers discovered the previously undiscovered mechanism by which a low-carbohydrate diet reduces inflammation in the brain. Importantly, the team identified a pivotal protein that links the diet to inflammatory genes, which, if blocked, could mirror the anti-inflammatory effects of ketogenic diets.


  1. Learning and memory failure due to brain injury is now restorable by drug: In a finding that holds promise for treating people with traumatic brain injury, an experimental drug, ISRIB (integrated stress response inhibitor), completely reversed severe learning and memory impairments caused by traumatic brain injury in mice. The groundbreaking finding revealed that the drug fully restored the ability to learn and remember in the brain-injured mice even when the animals were initially treated as long as a month after injury.


  1. Regulatory T cells induce stem cells for promoting hair growth: In a finding that could impact baldness, researchers found that regulatory T cells, a type of immune cell generally associated with controlling inflammation, directly trigger stem cells in the skin to promote healthy hair growth. An experiment with mice revealed that without these immune cells as partners, stem cells cannot regenerate hair follicles, leading to baldness.


  1. More intake of good fat is also bad: Liberal consumption of good fat (monounsaturated fat) – found in olive oil and avocados – may lead to fatty liver disease, a risk factor for metabolic disorders like type 2 diabetes and hypertension. Eating the fat in combination with high starch content was found to cause the most severe fatty liver disease in mice.


  1. Chemical toxicity in almost every daily use products: Unregulated chemicals are increasingly prevalent in products people use every day, and that rise matches a concurrent rise in health conditions like cancers and childhood diseases, Thus, researcher in UCSF is working to understand the environment’s role – including exposure to chemicals – in health conditions.


  1. Cytomegalovirus found as common factor for diabetes and heart disease in young women: Cytomegalovirus is associated with risk factors for type 2 diabetes and heart disease in women younger than 50. Women of normal weight who were infected with the typically asymptomatic cytomegalovirus, or CMV, were more likely to have metabolic syndrome. Surprisingly, the reverse was found in those with extreme obesity.




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FDA approval on 12/1/2017 of Amgen’s evolocumb (Repatha) a PCSK9 inhibitor for the prevention of heart attacks, strokes, and coronary revascularizations in patients with established cardiovascular disease

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN


Evolocumab was first FDA approved in 2015 for patients with

  • familial hypercholesterolemia and
  • others who fail to achieve LDL cholesterol lowering through diet and maximally-tolerated statin therapy.

In the Repatha cardiovascular outcomes study (FOURIER), Repatha reduced the risk of

  • heart attack by 27 percent, the risk of
  • stroke by 21 percent and the risk of
  • coronary revascularization by 22 percent.2


U.S. Repatha Indication

Repatha is a PCSK9 (proprotein convertase subtilisin kexin type 9) inhibitor antibody indicated:

  • to reduce the risk of myocardial infarction, stroke, and coronary revascularization in adults with established cardiovascular disease.
  • as an adjunct to diet, alone or in combination with other lipid-lowering therapies (e.g., statins, ezetimibe), for treatment of adults with primary hyperlipidemia (including heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia [HeFH]) to reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C).
  • as an adjunct to diet and other LDL‑lowering therapies (e.g., statins, ezetimibe, LDL apheresis) in patients with homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HoFH) who require additional lowering of LDL‑C.

The safety and effectiveness of Repatha have not been established in pediatric patients with HoFH who are younger than 13 years old.

The safety and effectiveness of Repatha have not been established in pediatric patients with primary hyperlipidemia or HeFH.

Eligible patients with high cholesterol (LDL-C ≥70 mg/dL or non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol [non-HDL-C] ≥100 mg/dL) and established cardiovascular disease at more than 1,300 study locations around the world were randomized to receive Repatha subcutaneous 140 mg every two weeks or 420 mg monthly plus high- or moderate-intensity effective statin dose; or placebo subcutaneous every two weeks or monthly plus high- to moderate-intensity statin dose. Statin therapy was defined in the protocol as at least atorvastatin 20 mg or equivalent daily with a recommendation for at least atorvastatin 40 mg or equivalent daily where approved. The study was event driven and continued until at least 1,630 patients experienced a key secondary endpoint.

About Repatha® (evolocumab)
Repatha® (evolocumab) is a human monoclonal antibody that inhibits proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9). Repatha binds to PCSK9 and inhibits circulating PCSK9 from binding to the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor (LDLR), preventing PCSK9-mediated LDLR degradation and permitting LDLR to recycle back to the liver cell surface. By inhibiting the binding of PCSK9 to LDLR, Repatha increases the number of LDLRs available to clear LDL from the blood, thereby lowering LDL-C levels.1

About Amgen in the Cardiovascular Therapeutic Area
Building on more than three decades of experience in developing biotechnology medicines for patients with serious illnesses, Amgen is dedicated to addressing important scientific questions to advance care and improve the lives of patients with cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide.8 Amgen’s research into cardiovascular disease, and potential treatment options, is part of a growing competency at Amgen that utilizes human genetics to identify and validate certain drug targets. Through its own research and development efforts, as well as partnerships, Amgen is building a robust cardiovascular portfolio consisting of several approved and investigational molecules in an effort to address a number of today’s important unmet patient needs, such as high cholesterol and heart failure.

Homozygous Familial Hypercholesterolemia (HoFH): In 49 patients with homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia studied in a 12-week, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, 33 patients received 420 mg of Repatha subcutaneously once monthly. The adverse reactions that occurred in at least 2 (6.1 percent) Repatha-treated patients and more frequently than in placebo-treated patients, included upper respiratory tract infection (9.1 percent versus 6.3 percent), influenza (9.1 percent versus 0 percent), gastroenteritis (6.1 percent versus 0 percent), and nasopharyngitis (6.1 percent versus 0 percent).

Immunogenicity: Repatha is a human monoclonal antibody. As with all therapeutic proteins, there is a potential for immunogenicity with Repatha.

Please contact Amgen Medinfo at 800-77-AMGEN (800-772-6436) or 844-REPATHA (844-737-2842) regarding Repatha® availability or find more information, including full Prescribing Information, at and


  1. Repatha® U.S. Prescribing Information. Amgen.
  2. Sabatine MS, Giugliano RP, Keech AC, et al, for the FOURIER Steering Committee and Investigators. N Engl J Med. Evolocumab and Clinical Outcomes in Patients with Cardiovascular Disease. 2017;376:1713-22.
  3. Cannon CP, et al. N Engl J Med. 2004;350:1495-1504.
  4. LaRosa JC, et al. N Engl J Med. 2005;352:1425-1435.
  5. Pederson TR, et al. JAMA. 2005;294:2437-2445.
  6. Search Collaborative Group Lancet 2010;376:1658–69.
  7. Cannon CP, et al. N Engl J Med. 2015;372:2387-2397.
  8. World Health Organization. Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) fact sheet. Accessed October 30, 2017.



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The Biologic Roles of Leptin in Metabolism, Leptin Physiology and Obesity: On the Mechanism of Action of the Hormone in Energy Balance

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN


More than $140 billion is spent each year in the United States to treat obesity-related diseases, according to the CDC.

Worldwide obesity rates have doubled since 1980, and most people now live in countries where more deaths are caused by overweight and obesity than by malnourishment, according to the World Health Organization.

Treatment with leptin was approved in the United States in 2014 for use in congenital leptin deficiency as well as in an unusual syndrome of lipodystrophy, but the protein has not been readily available for clinical experiments.

These are the conclusions in a commentary published June 22 in Cell Metabolism by Harvard Medical School metabolism experts Jeffrey Flier and Eleftheria Maratos-Flier.

Flier, the HMS George Higginson Professor of Physiology and Medicine, and Maratos-Flier, HMS professor of medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, have made significant contributions to the understanding of the metabolism of obesity and starvation in general, and of leptin in particular.

The role for leptin as a starvation signal is now well established. [T]he physiologic role of leptin in most individuals may be limited to signaling the response to hunger or starvation, and then reversing that signal as energy stores are restored


“We continue to believe that healthy and lean individuals exist who resist obesity at least in part through their leptin levels, and that some individuals develop obesity because they have insufficiently elevated leptin levels or cellular resistance to leptin,” Flier said.

“But in science, belief and knowledge are two different things, and as much as we may lean toward this belief, we ought to develop evidence for this hypothesis or abandon it in favor of new potential mechanisms for the regulation of body weight,” he said.


Leptin’s Physiologic Role: Does the Emperor of Energy Balance Have No Clothes?

Jeffrey S. Flier'Correspondence information about the author Jeffrey S. Flier


Eleftheria Maratos-Flier
Publication stage: In Press Corrected Proof

Seeking evidence for anti-obesity claim – Does the Emperor Have Clothes?

Importance of leptin signaling and signal transducer and activator of transcription-3 activation in mediating the cardiac hypertrophy associated with obesity

Maren Leifheit-Nestler12, Nana-Maria Wagner13, Rajinikanth Gogiraju1,Michael Didié14, Stavros Konstantinides15, Gerd Hasenfuss1and Katrin Schäfer1*

J Translational Medicine: Cardiovascular, Metabolic and Lipoprotein Translation. 2013; 11:170.


Other related articles on LEPTIN published in this Open Access Online Scientific Journal include the following:


Leptin signaling in mediating the cardiac hypertrophy associated with obesity

Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reviewer, and Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN


Leptin and Puberty

Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.


Pregnancy with a Leptin-Receptor Mutation

Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.


New Insights into mtDNA, mitochondrial proteins, aging, and metabolic control

Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP

Adipocyte Derived Stroma Cells: Their Usage in Regenerative Medicine and Reprogramming into Pancreatic Beta-Like Cells

Curator: Evelina Cohn, PhD

Fat Cells Reprogrammed to Make Insulin

Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP

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Trends in HealthCare Economics: Average Out-of-Pocket Costs, non-Generics and Value-Based Pricing, Amgen’s Repatha and AstraZeneca’s Access to Healthcare Policies

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN


1.   AstraZeneca’s access to healthcare strategy is made up of three elements:

  • Provide high-quality, effective and appropriate medicines to those who need them. Improve affordability, particularly among the growing middle class in Emerging Markets.
  • Bring down healthcare barriers, particularly in developing countries. Our strategy helps us to address affordability and other healthcare barriers, while ensuring we continue to provide high-quality medicines to those who need them.
  • Key Target exceeded Full target achieved Ongoing progress Target not achieved, some progress AstraZeneca has extensively expanded and updated their access strategy identifying those areas where they are best placed to provide support and are now well positioned for future progress.”
  • Access to Medicine Index Access to healthcare Goals Target progress Progress highlights Expand sustainable patient access to our medicines to reach 3 million patients by 2016 4.49 million patients in Emerging Markets served by patient access programmes
  • Young Health Programme After exceeding initial goal to reach 1 million people through the Young Health Programme by 2015, aim to renew in five markets and expand into three markets by 2018 Renewed in Canada, Germany, China and India and expanded into Kenya
  • Total reach in 2016 of 166,000 and 1.6 million youth since 2010
  • Proposals for expansion are in development for Brazil and Australia and for renewal in Portugal
  • Healthy Heart Africa Reach 10 million hypertensive patients across Sub-Saharan Africa by 2025 Since 2014, we have conducted over 2.7 million screenings and started treatment for over 100,000 hypertensive patients


2.   Co-Development and Commercialization by Territory

AstraZeneca has paid $45 million and committed to up to $2.1 billion in milestones to team with Pieris Pharmaceuticals. The agreement sets Pieris up to move respiratory candidate PRS-060 into the clinic on AstraZeneca’s dime and pull in milestones as it and other pipeline prospects advance.

Tiny Pieris is due to receive the first, $12.5 million milestone when it moves moderate to severe asthma candidate PRS-060 into phase 1. AstraZeneca will fund clinical development of the interleukin-4 receptor alpha-targeting protein. If the asset reaches phase 2a, Pieris has the option to codevelop and commercialize it in the U.S., bumping up the royalties or gross margin share it receives in the process.

Pieris has a similar codevelopment option on other assets covered by the agreement. The biotech will develop four other proteins against undisclosed respiratory targets. If Pieris wants, it can sign up to codevelop and commercialize two of these programs in the U.S. Milestones and commercial payments across the deal could ultimately total $2.1 billion.


3.  Prescriptions Dispensed at Zero Patient Out-of-Pocket Cost Reached Thirty Percent in 2016

29.9% of prescriptions have been dispensed at zero patient out-of-pocket cost, including brands and generics, up 1.5% since 2015, all due to increased use of zero cost generics.
The total share of prescriptions where patients paid some amount less than $50 declined by 1.3% to 67.8% in 2016.
The proportion of claims with patient cost exposure greater than $50 increased also declined slightly from 2.5% to 2.3% in 2016.

Since 2013, Average Out-of-Pocket Costs for All Brand and Generic Prescriptions has Decreased by $1.19

Average patient out of pocket costs declined from $9.66 in 2013 to $8.47 in 2016, with 2016 brand costs declining to $28.31 from $32.36 in 2013 and generics dipping to $5.54 from a high of $6.05 in 2013.
The list prices of brands continue to be far higher than the average paid by patients, as few patients are exposed to those costs in their insurance plans.
The average list price for brands averaged 12 times higher than the average out of pocket cost for patients in 2016 compared to 3 times higher for generics.

For Immediate Release Contact: Joan Fallon

May 2, 2017


4.   Harvard Pilgrim Signs Second Groundbreaking Contract with Amgen For Repatha

HPHC and its members will receive full refund if a cardiac event occurs while on the drug

(WELLESLEY, MA) – Harvard Pilgrim Health Care has entered into a first-of-its-kind contract with Amgen for its LDL cholesterol lowering drug, Repatha, that guarantees the health plan and its members will receive a full refund of their costs for the drug if a member is hospitalized for a myocardial infarction or stroke after taking Repatha for six months or more and maintaining an appropriate level of compliance on the drug.

Repatha is one of a new class of biotechnology medicines known as PCSK9 inhibitors that have demonstrated a promising new approach for treating elevated LDL cholesterol in patients whose levels are not able to be controlled by current treatment options. The medication is designed to target a protein that prevents the body from removing artery-blocking LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream. Repatha works differently than statin drugs that prevent the liver from making cholesterol.

Given by injection every two or four weeks, Repatha is intended for patients who have an inherited disorder resulting in high levels of LDL cholesterol or have high-risk atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease conditions, such as heart attack or stroke, that have been resistant to treatment.

“Repatha has been shown to have a significant outcome on reducing cardiovascular morbidity for high risk individuals with elevated LDL cholesterol,” said Harvard Pilgrim Chief Medical Officer Michael Sherman. However, there have been concerns raised about the cost of this new drug relative to existing statin treatments. We hope to negotiate more contracts of this type, in which a pharmaceutical company truly has ‘skin in the game’ going forward. This agreement is the first we have signed in which there is a full refund of all costs related to the medication if the patient experiences a heart attack or stroke while taking it.”

“Cardiovascular disease is the largest public health concern in the world and for high-risk patients who have already had a cardiovascular event or whose genetics puts them at risk, it is important that these patients have access to an effective treatment shown to lower their

elevated LDL cholesterol in addition to their current lipid lowering regimen,” said Joshua J. Ofman, M.D., MSHS, senior vice president of Global Value, Access & Policy. “Amgen’s agreement with Harvard Pilgrim demonstrates our commitment to seeking innovative approaches that help break down the barriers of access to Repatha.”

This is the second patient-focused outcomes contract Harvard Pilgrim has negotiated with Amgen for Repatha. In the fall of 2015, the health plan signed an outcomes guarantee through which Amgen provided HPHC with an enhanced discount if the reduction in LDL levels for Harvard Pilgrim members is less than what was observed during Repatha’s clinical trials. In addition, the agreement provides for additional discounts if the utilization of the drug exceeds certain levels. This enables those patients who can most benefit from the drug to receive it while continuing to encourage utilization of lower cost statins for the majority of patients.


From: “Fallon, Joan” <>

Date: Tuesday, May 2, 2017 at 1:09 PM

Subject: press release from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care

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