Trial drug improves heart failure patients’ chance of survival

Experimental therapy lowers blood pressure

A new drug candidate outperforms a standard treatment in heart failure patients, researchers report August 30 in the New England Journal of Medicine. Those receiving the experimental drug called LCZ696 were less likely to die during the study than those getting a common blood pressure–lowering drug.

In heart failure patients, the heart struggles to pump blood fast enough to meet the body’s needs. Drugs that lower blood pressure relax vessels and make that job easier. Around 5.1 million people in the United States have heart failure.

In the new study, scientists randomly assigned 8,442 heart failure patients to get LCZ696, made by Novartis, or the blood pressure drug enalapril, sold as Vasotec. Roughly equal percentages of the patients were taking other medications, such as diuretics. After an average follow-up of 27 months, 13.3 percent of those getting LCX696 had died from cardiovascular causes, compared with 16.5 percent of those on enalapril.  

LCZ696 is a combination of the blood pressure drug valsartan and a compound that inhibits the enzyme neprilysin. Previous research suggests suppressing this enzyme can lower blood pressure when used in tandem with another drug.

Enalapril has been a drug of choice for treating heart failure for more than two decades. The LCZ696 findings “may well represent a new threshold of hope for patients with heart failure,” writes cardiologist Mariell Jessup of the University of Pennsylvania in an editorial in the same journal.

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