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30th January 2023

Injectable medicine could prevent cardiac problems

Peter Psaltis

Did you know people with diabetes have a high risk of repeat heart attacks, strokes 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.

To combat this, Associate Professor Peter Psaltis is investigating whether an injectable medicine called semaglutide can stop plaque growth and prevent heart attacks from reoccurring.

Semaglutide is used in diabetes to lower blood sugar levels.

The study will use a ‘CAT’ scan – a simple, quick and safe method that allows researchers to see and track the growth of plaque in the heart arteries in a non-invasive procedure.

A/Prof Psaltis said a positive result will help understand how and why semaglutide works to save people with diabetes from having heart attacks and strokes.

“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,’’ he said.

“This will help us reduce the risk of people with diabetes from having recurrent heart attacks (or strokes) which have a high risk of being fatal or cause considerable suffering.’’

While a stent is often applied to the artery blockage that had 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,’’ he 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 and these individuals have worse 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.’’

Thanks to your donation, this important study can help reduce heart attacks and strokes in our community.