Irish-made medicine a life-saver for heart patients
A MEDICINE made in Ireland can significantly reduce the risk of death and hospitalisation in patients with serious heart disease, a major study revealed yesterday.
The largest ever global study into heart failure said the medicine ivabradine is likely to have a major new role to play in saving lives by slowing down hearts that beat too fast.
It is made by the French multinational Servier at its plant in Arklow, Co Wicklow, where 300 people are employed.
The results of the study published in 'The Lancet' medical journal were presented to the European Society of Cardiology in Stockholm yesterday.
They involved clinical trials in 37 countries including patients in six Irish hospitals.
The study found the medicine could reduce death and admission to hospital for patients with chronic heart failure by 26pc.
The importance of the result is its success in reducing the heart rate, which is the key to survival for many patients.
Around 300,000 Irish people suffer from chronic heart failure and it is the most common cause of hospitalisation in patients over 65 years of age.
Heart failure can be caused by a number of other conditions, such as high blood pressure or a heart attack.
It caused 20,000 admissions to hospital here in 2008, affecting older people and is more common in men than women.
Prof Ken McDonald, a cardiologist in St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin, who was involved in the study, said the problem of heart failure was reaching epidemic proportions in Ireland and around the world due to the ageing population.
He said: "We know that heart rate is an important target in heart-failure treatment. If we can reduce heart rate in these patients, we can improve survival."
"We have not seen results like this in heart failure in some time so this is of major clinical importance."
It is the only treatment to provide pure heart rate reduction, he added.
Ivabradine is licensed in Ireland to treat chronic stable angina.
The study involved more than 6,500 patients from 37 countries with moderate-to- severe heart failure and a heart rate above 70 beats per minute who were followed up for an average of 23 months.
Ivabradine was safe and generally well tolerated with serious side effects occurring more frequently in the placebo group than in the group on the drug (3,388 events).
Overall, placebo-treated patients with the highest heart rates were more than twice as likely to die or experience a cardiovascular event.