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25th January 2023 Heart Disease

Injectable medicine to prevent repeat heart attacks

Peter Psaltis

Did you know people with diabetes have a high risk of repeat heart attacks, stroke after an initial heart attack, or dying from heart disease in the future?

This is due to the build up of fatty plaque blocking more than one of their arteries.

Thankfully our dedicated researchers are investigating ways to combat this, with an injectable medicine called semaglutide (used in diabetes to lower blood sugar levels) showing promise in stopping plaque growth and preventing heart attacks from reoccurring.

The study, led by Associate Professor Peter Psaltis from the University of Adelaide and SAHMRI, will use a CAT scan to see and track the growth of plaque in the heart arteries and help understand how and why semaglutide works.

“We hope that this will help reduce the risk of people with diabetes from having recurrent heart attacks or strokes, which have a high risk of being fatal or causing considerable suffering,” he said.

“This will help inform and motivate doctors and patients to use these medicines at the earliest opportunity to stop plaques from growing in the heart arteries.”

While a stent is often inserted to clear the blockage that caused the original heart attack, plaque still remains in other arteries, potentially causing problems in the future for diabetes patients.

“We need to do what we can to prevent these other plaques from growing or causing repeated heart attacks,” A/Prof Psaltis said.

“Our study will look at whether certain drugs used to lower blood sugar in people with diabetes can actually do this.”

Around 40 per cent of patients with acute myocardial infarction (MI) have diabetes, which brings a poorer prognosis.

“These plaques pose ongoing risk as they can continue to grow, destabilise and cause thrombotic occlusions, leading to cardiovascular death, non-fatal MI or stroke,” he said.

“This occurs in around 18 per cent of patients in the first year post-MI, despite widespread use of antiplatelets and cholesterol-lowering statins.

“This highlights a pressing need to improve secondary prevention after MI, especially in diabetic patients.”