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    Pill Cuts Risk of Death in Heart Failure Patients

    Procoralan Also Reduced Hospital Stays for Patients With Severe Heart Failure
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

    Aug. 30, 2010 (Stockholm) -- A pill that slows the heart rate substantially cut the risk of death and hospital stays for patients with severe heart failure, a study of more than 6,500 patients shows.

    The drug is called Procoralan. It's already used in Europe to treat the severe chest pain of angina, although it’s not approved in the U.S.

    The new study suggests "we should look seriously at this drug in heart failure patients as well," says American Heart Association spokeswoman Mariell Jessup, MD, medical director of the Penn Heart and Vascular Center at the University of Pennsylvania. She was not involved with the work.

    The results were presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress (ESC) and simultaneously published online in the journal The Lancet.

    Procoralan Slows Heart Rate in Heart Failure Patients

    One major cause of heart failure occurs when the heart muscle becomes scarred and loses its ability to pump enough blood throughout the body, often after a massive heart attack.

    About 50% of patients die within four years of diagnosis, and about 25% are rehospitalized within three months of their first hospital stay.

    Recent research shows that elevated heart rates are associated with poor prognoses, says researcher Michel Komajda, head of the cardiovascular and surgical departments at the Pitie Salpetriere Hospital in Paris.

    "So we hypothesized that reducing the heart rate with a novel agent, [Procoralan], would improve the prognosis above what is obtained with best clinical practice," he tells WebMD.

    Which is just what happened. After nearly two years of treatment, patients given Procoralan were 18% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease or to be hospitalized for worsening heart failure, compared with patients given placebo.

    Specifically, 24% of patients in the Procoralan group were hospitalized or died vs. 29% of patients given placebo, Komajda says.

    The benefit was driven mainly by a reduction in hospitalizations for heart failure, he says.

    Procoralan Produces Benefits in 3 Months

    The study involved people with severe heart failure, whose hearts had serious trouble pumping and who had a heart rate of 70 beats per minute or more at rest -- a rate associated with a particularly poor prognosis, Jessup says.

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