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Published on 31 August 2010

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Pill may save heart patients’ lives


The lives of thousands of patients who suffer heart failure could be saved by a £10 a week pill for chest pains, research has shown.

People in the UK who suffer with angina, a pain caused by insufficient blood getting to the heart, can be prescribed ivabradine. But only one in 10 angina patients currently get the drug.

Hospital admissions could be slashed by the cost-effective treatment for many thousands of patients with moderate to severe heart failure, results from an experts’ meeting in Stockholm suggest.

Over a typical study period of two years, the drug cut the risk of death from heart failure by 26% in the patient population studied. It had a similar impact on the likelihood of being admitted to hospital because of worsening symptoms.

More than 700,000 people over the age of 45 live with heart failure, which occurs when damage to the heart leaves it too weak to pump blood efficiently round the body.

An estimated 68,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Heart failure causes symptoms of fatigue, breathlessness, increased heart rate, and swollen ankles. It can lead to serious complications, and around 40% of those affected are dead after a year.

Heart failure soaks up 1% to 2% of the total NHS budget, with direct medical costs alone amounting to £625 million a year.

The Shift (Systolic Heart failure treatment with the If inhibitor ivabradine Trial) trial involved more than 6,500 patients in 37 countries already on standard treatments such as beta-blocker drugs.

Participants were randomly assigned additional varying doses of ivabradine, or placed in a “control group” receiving standard treatment only.

All the patients had chronic heart failure and a high heart rate of 70 beats per minute or more.

The findings have been presented at the European Society of Cardiology annual meeting in Stockholm.

Results from the trial were also published in a special online edition of The Lancet medical journal.

Copyright Press Association 2010

European Society of Cardiology

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