Calcium Channel Blocker Slows Hardening Of Arteries In Some Key Arteries, But Not Others

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- A large clinical trial on whether a major calcium channel blocker could slow hardening of the arteries and thus reduce heart disease and stroke produced mixed results, a research team from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine and the University of Michigan reported today at the American Heart Association meeting.

The research team, headed by Curt D. Furberg, M.D., Ph.D. of Wake Forest and Bertram Pitt, M.D. of the University of Michigan, reported that amlodipine (Norvasc) had no significant effect in preventing new coronary artery atherosclerosis, hardening of the arteries, or on the progression of preexisting coronary artery atherosclerosis. However, it appeared to slow progression of atherosclerosis in the carotid arteries in the neck.

The coronary arteries supply blood to the heart, and a blocked coronary artery can lead to a heart attack. The carotid arteries provide blood to the brain, and a blocked carotid can lead to stroke.

There was no difference in the overall mortality, in rate of heart attack or stroke, or in major vascular "events" between patients on amlodipine and those on an inert placebo, which was consistent with a lack of effect on the coronary arteries, according to Robert P. Byington, Ph.D., associate professor of public health sciences and head of the section on epidemiology at Wake Forest, who headed the study's national data coordinating center.

But, Pitt, a professor of internal medicine, said, "Amlodipine significantly reduced the incidence of angina pectoris," severe chest pain that results from lack of oxygen to heart muscles.

Furberg, professor and chairman of public health sciences at Wake Forest and a national co-chairman of the study, noted, "This reduction in angina is a known symptomatic effect of amlodipine."

This reduction in symptoms led to fewer procedures to relieve angina, such as coronary artery bypass surgery. Becau

Contact: Robert Conn, Jim Steele or Mark Wright
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center

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