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Experimental Drug Looks Good for Treating Chest Pain

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And the benefits from the surgical options are often short-lived. For instance, one-quarter of those who undergo bypass surgery to reopen blocked blood vessels will have recurrent angina within a year, as well 40% of those who have the less invasive balloon dilation of heart arteries, or angioplasty.

Ranolazine works by helping the heart get better gas mileage. When the heart is not getting enough oxygen because its blood flow is diminished, it can't burn its fuel -- in this case, fats and blood sugar -- that it needs for energy. But ranolazine helps the heart burn its fuel more efficiently, reducing its need for more oxygen while still allowing it to do its vital job of pumping blood to the rest of the body.

This drug "holds great promise, and now there's clinical data to support its use," Thames says, referring to a data gleaned from the so-called MARISA trial.

That trial showed that people taking the medication were able to exercise about one to 1 1/2 minutes longer than people taking an identical-looking but inactive placebo pill.

Previously, these patients had difficulty running a vacuum cleaner, going to the grocery store, or taking a walk, he says.

And now a newer study is under way that looks at ranolazine when used in combination with other angina drugs, and Thanes says he's confident those results will be encouraging.

It's about time there was a new drug for angina, says Victor J. Dzau, MD, Hersey Professor of the Theory and Practice of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and chairman of the department of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston. Dzau does receive some research funding from CV Therapeutics but was speaking today on behalf of the AMA.

"There are huge unmet needs in the area of angina," he says. "This is a very exciting new drug that needs to be followed."

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