A heart drug - Procoralan also known as Ivabradine, that costs less than £10 a week, could cut the risk of dying from heart failure by more than a third.
Heart failure affects 900,000 people in the UK, causing 100,000 deaths a year. The disorder is usually the result of a heart attack damaging the pumping muscles. It significantly reduces the amount of oxygenated blood reaching the body. About 68,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Symptoms include fatigue, breathlessness, increased heart rate and swollen ankles. Treating heart failure soaks up one to two per cent of the total NHS budget, with direct medical costs alone amounting to £625 million a year.
Researchers behind a major trial of Procoralan believe the pill could save 10,000 lives a year in Britain alone. Ivabradine works by slowing the beating of the heart, helping it to pump blood more efficiently.
A clinical trial called SHIFT showed that Procoralan reduced the risk of dying from heart failure by 39%. It also cut the rate of hospital admissions from the disease by 24%. The reductions were in addition to current standard therapy. It could reduce the risk of death from all types of cardiovascular disease by 17 per cent and the risk of death from all causes by 17 per cent. In addition, the drug, which slows down the heart rate, was found to cut the risk of heart failure patients requiring treatment by 30 per cent. The study involved 6,505 people in 37 countries, including Britain.
Professor Martin Cowie, consultant cardiologist at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, who led the study said, “Heart failure is a very common problem, affecting approximately 1 per cent of the population. The decision to approve this new indication for ivabradine is great news for both doctors and patients, and is a significant step forward in the management of heart failure.” Prof Cowie added: “While Ace inhibitors and beta-blockers remain very important in the treatment of this condition, the results of the trial demonstrate the value that a reduction in heart rate with ivabradine can bring both in terms of improving symptoms and preventing disease progression, but also in helping patients return to normal daily activities and increasing their enjoyment of life.”
Procoralan is already used to treat angina. It was recently approved by the European medicine regulator for heart failure. But it has yet to be assessed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) for widespread use on the NHS. Made by Servier, the drug is relatively cheap, costing the NHS about £500 a year per patient.