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Sunday 20th May 2018

Heart pill could save thousands

31st August 2010

A pill currently available on prescription for angina may save the lives of thousands of heart-failure patients, international clinical trials suggest.

heart surgery

Ivabradine, which costs less than £1.50 a day, lowers heart beat rates without reducing blood pressure.

The trials, the results of which were presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) annual meeting in Stockholm, showed that ivabradine had the potential to save the lives of thousands of heart failure patients.

Also published in the journal The Lancet, they involved more than 6,500 people in 37 countries who were on standard medication such as beta blockers.

According to Martin Cowie, who led the part of the study that was carried out in the UK, the findings could save up to 10,000 lives annually.

Researchers found that patients who took ivabradine over an average of two years were 26% less likely to die from heart failure, and were around 26% less likely to be admitted to hospital, too.

They called for ivabradine to be used as part of standard heart failure treatment as soon as possible.

Heart failure occurs when the heart is too damaged to pump blood effectively around the body, and affects more than 700,000 people over the age of 45 in the UK alone.

Between 1% and 2% of the total NHS budget is used on the condition, with direct medical costs of £625 million annually.

Cowie, who is a consultant cardiologist at the Royal Brompton Hospital, said that one in four British people could develop heart failure during their lifetime.

Because it slows the pulse down, ivabradine takes strain off the heart, he said.

Currently, beta blockers are the main treatment for heart failure, but they can trigger asthma or low blood pressure in some people.

Cowie said the latest evidence represented a significant clinical breakthrough in the management of heart failure.

But experts said further trials would be needed before ivabradine could be adopted as a treatment.

Cardiology expert John Teerlink from the University of California in San Francisco said there were still many unresolved questions about the generalisability of the trial results and applicability to a broader population of patients.

British Heart Foundation medical director Peter Weissberg said more data was needed to establish the role of ivabradine in heart failure management.

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