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Angina Drug Safe for Long-Term Use

Researchers Show Drug Can Safety Be Used in Heart Patients
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WebMD Health News

Aug. 30, 2004 -- The drug nifedipine, used to treat chest pain from angina, is safe for long-term use, according to an international study published in The Lancet. The study helps settle safety concerns over the use of this drug and similar ones in people who have angina or high blood pressure.

Nifedipine is a type of drug called a calcium channel blocker, which relaxes (widens) blood vessels, making it easier for the heart to pump and reducing its workload.

Angina, or chest pain, is a common symptom of blocked heart arteries. Many medications are used to treat angina, and some work by lowering blood pressure.

In 1995, drugs similar to nifedipine were found to cause dangerous drops in blood pressure and an increased risk of heart attacks, but no one knew if these risks also applied to nifedipine.

To find out, researchers from 19 countries launched a long-term study of the drug's safety.

In the study, almost 7,700 people with heart disease and angina were given either nifedipine or a placebo daily in addition to their usual medications to treat their heart condition.

After five years, the researchers found that nifedipine was safe and well tolerated. The drug helped reduce blood pressure; those patients given nifedipine had significantly lower blood pressure compared with those receiving placebo.

However, despite the lower blood pressure seen with the use of nifedipine, both groups had the same risk of death, heart attack, or debilitating stroke.

What's more, the nifedipine takers had less heart failure and medical interventions such as bypass or angioplasty to alleviate angina.

Overall, nifedipine prolonged the time before a medical procedure became necessary to alleviate angina. It also lengthened the time before the first heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and death occurred in people taking nifedipine compared with those taking a placebo.

That makes nifedipine an appropriate second or third line of defense against angina that doesn't respond to other drugs, writes Bruce Psaty, MD, PhD, of the University of Washington's Cardiovascular Health Research Unit, in a commentary in The Lancet.

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