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City leading way with heart attack treatment.

Heart attack victims could soon be given the option of a new treatment which reduces the risk of side effects following the results of an international clinical trial led from Birmingham.

The landmark trial involved 15,000 patients in 24 countries and the results, published today, show that a drug called valsartan provides an effective alternative to conventional medication.

The findings mean that 30 per cent of heart attack patients who are unable to take standard therapies which cut the risk of repeat attacks, because of adverse reactions, could be offered the new drug.

The most common and effective treatment prescribed for the 218,000 heart attack survivors in the UK each year is ACE inhibitors, which control repeat attacks and heart failure by blocking chemical pathways inside the heart.

But many patients are intolerant to these and experience severe persistent coughs, rashes, or dizziness.

Until now there has been no alternative treatment available which is as effective.

Experts now believe that the new valsartan drug, an ARB (angiotensin receptor blocker), serves the same purpose by blocking the pathways at a different point.

Dr Michael Davies, consultant cardiologist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, who led the Birmingham part of the trial, said it would change clinical prescribing in this country to the benefit of heart attack patients.

'ACE inhibitors are very effective at controlling the heart patterns of heart attack victims but some people cannot take them and there was no adequate alternative which reduces the long-term effects of an arrest and death rates.

'But now, patients who are intolerant to ACE drugs can be prescribed valsartan. All drugs have side effects but alternatives need to be available.

'The results leave no doubt that we can improve the way we treat the rising number of people who survive heart attacks. It will change treatment guidelines in the future.'

The trial was one of the largest of its kind and the results were presented yesterday at a meeting of the American Heart Association, in Florida.

Every year, 275,000 people in the UK suffer a heart attack. While progress has been made in treating heart attacks, people who survive the emergency phase of a heart attack are at an increased risk of heart failure, repeated heart attacks, stroke, or other serious complications.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 12, 2003
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