The Failed Holy Grail

A promising molecule called a CETP inhibitor was discovered about 20 years ago. It had the potential to both raise good cholesterol while at the same time reduce bad cholesterol. Conventional cholesterol lowering medication (drugs called statins) only reduce bad cholesterol and then not by as much as the CETP inhibitors promised to. Following conventional thinking it was expected that CETP inhibitors would significantly reduce cardiovascular disease (atherosclerosis) and hence reduce the risk of heart attack and strokes relative to conventional drugs currently in use. Several Versions of CETP inhibitors have been developed, and some are in the pipeline. If effective the global market for them would be worth Billions of dollars.

The Results

Early attempts at developing effective CETP inhibitors were successful in that they achieved their goal of raising the good and lowering the bad cholesterol, but they came with side effects.   The clinical trial of one called Torcetrapid ceased in 2006 due to excess deaths!!!

Eli Lilly (a global pharmaceutical company) succeeded in producing a CETP inhibitor that had acceptable side effects. It then had to run a five year clinical trial to prove that the drug was more effective than a placebo and conventional drugs.  At the end of the five years Eli announced it was extending the trial.  Eventually it abandoned the trial at the end of 6.5 years in 2015. The reason for abandonment was given as “futility”.

While the drug significantly increased the good cholesterol and reduced the bad cholesterol compared to the control group taking the placebo, there was no difference in the incidence of heart attack or stroke between the two groups.  In short it didn’t work.


Bad and Good Cholesterol are segments of the standard lipid profiles ordered by your Doctor.

The most important Atherogenic segments in this lipid profile are Triglyceride levels, in conjunction with the level of Bad Cholesterol. Further; Bad Cholesterol subfraction analysis (LDLc Subfractions) is critical to determining our heart attack risk.

Bad Cholesterol can itself be “good” or “bad”. The good variety is called “Pattern A” and the bad “Pattern B”.  No matter whether you’re skinny or fat, knowing which pattern we are matters.  Twenty percent of heart attack deaths occur to people who have perfectly good “bad cholesterol” levels.

PS You can read some research on CETP inhibitors HERE 

Glenn Sargent

Published by

Peter Shaw

Is the founder and president of Princes Park Touch and the leader of the LocalHero project!

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