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The Heart Failure Drug That Could Save Millions

January 26, 2016 | Dr. Mary Williams, RN, DC | Comments

We're all about the heart and heart health here at CPRCertified, which means I do a lot of extra reading to keep current with the latest trends in cardiac care. I happened to do some reading over the weekend and came across some very big news from the pharmaceutical industry about a drug that could save the lives of many who experience heart failure. The American Heart Association posted a study run by a Swiss company called Novartis which recently completed a clinical trial focused on chronic heart failure. The trial was the largest ever conducted on chronic heart failure and yielded amazing information about one of the drugs that Novartis had in development.

Many clinicians are very happy about this because it has been nearly ten years since the last major advancement in this area was made. Heart failure is the top reason older adults are hospitalized and it is also one of the leading causes of death. Once the heart muscle weakens, it can't pump efficiently (which can sometimes be due to damage from a heart attack). This causes a fluid buildup in the body and can cause collateral problems like problems breathing. It's also a widespread issue, with nearly 24 million people diagnosed with it globally, around 6 million of them Americans.

The drug in question, known as LCZ696, performed remarkably well and could reduce the risk of dying or requiring extended hospitalization due to cardiovascular issues and heart failure by up to 20%. It had consistently outpaced one of the most commonly-prescribed drugs, enalapril. Most people know it as Vasotec which is an ACE inhibitor. ACE inhibitors help reduce strain on the heart by keeping your body from producing angiotensin II, which causes your blood vessels to tense up.

LCZ696 is a twice daily pill that works in a similar way. It blocks the effects of certain substances that can harm the heart while protecting those that strengthen it. It also helps to dilate blood vessels and helps assist the heart in pumping more effectively. In fact, it did so well that Novartis was able to end their trial early due to LCZ696's reliable results. During the 27-month study, the Novartis drug reduced the possibility of dying from heart-related causes by 20% and by any other reason by around 16%. It also reduced the risk of being hospitalized for heart failure by around 21%. This meant that patients on the drug experienced a better quality of life and were able to remain in the comfort of their homes rather than experience the stress of a long term hospital stay.

All of us in the medical community are hopeful about LCZ696. A number of other promising cardiac drugs have fallen through due to safety concerns, and the production of this new drug would change the lives of many suffering with heart failure, increasing both their comfort and their physical well-being. I look forward to hearing more about the development of this life-saving drug in the future.


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