A jab which is more powerful than statins has been given the go-ahead by the NHS in an attempt to prevent 30,000 deaths from heart attacks and strokes.
A mass study will see tens of thousands of patients undergo gene silencing injections that can halve “bad cholesterol” levels in just two weeks, greatly reducing the risk of heart disease.
The treatment, compared to a vaccine, will initially target 40,000 middle-aged men and women whose cholesterol remains high, despite the fact that daily statins have been prescribed.
But jabs are expected to be distributed to around 300,000 patients per year, starting next year.
Estimates suggest that this could prevent 55,000 heart attacks and strokes in a decade, saving 30,000 lives
The plans were drawn up following a radical agreement between drug manufacturers and the government, which aims to speed up access to innovative treatments.
Experts said the move could revolutionize heart disease prevention, one of the UK’s biggest killers.
Matt Hancock, health secretary, said: “I am determined to find ways to save as many lives as possible and do my best to prevent terrible conditions like heart disease from bringing people to family and friends too early.
“This partnership is fantastic news and is a great step forward in helping to achieve this goal.”
An international study conducted by Imperial College London last year found that those undergoing treatment, called inclisiran, saw levels drop by half.
The result was at least as good as a high-dose statin and far superior to low-dose drugs. And it was maintained by simply doing a jab every six months.
The semiannual jab license should say that they should be used as well as statins for patients diagnosed with heart disease.
But cardiologists believe that over time, strokes can become an alternative to daily pills for millions of people.
Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in the UK and around six in ten adults have raised cholesterol levels.
This can build up inside the walls of the blood vessels, making them narrower and reducing the flow of blood to the heart or brain, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Normally, such patients are recommended to take statins, which prevent the liver from producing as much cholesterol.
About eight million adults in Britain take them every year.