Two Beta-Blocker Drugs Equal In Treating Heart Failure

DALLAS, May 25 -- The first direct comparison of two beta-blocker drugs for the treatment of congestive heart failure found that an older, cheaper drug is as effective as the newest one on the market, researchers report in today's Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Beta-blockers, which reduce the heart's workload and were developed to treat high blood pressure and chest pain, also have been found to be effective for treating congestive heart failure (CHF). The newest beta-blocker, carvedilol, is the only one that has Food and Drug Administration approval specifically for treatment of heart failure. Carvedilol is at least three times more expensive than metoprolol, the other beta-blocker tested in the study.

"Carvedilol is a different kind of beta-blocker that has additional effects, and we wanted to find out if these differences are important for patients. With beta-blocker use becoming more prevalent in treating heart failure, choosing an effective drug is important," says Marrick L. Kukin, M.D., director of the heart failure program at Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York City, and lead author of the study.

The study, designed to compare carvedilol with metoprolol, included 46 men and 21 women, ages 29 to 87, with CHF, in which the heart becomes too weak to pump blood. Shortness of breath and fatigue are symptoms of CHF, the only form of heart disease that is increasing in the U.S. population. Researchers compared the drug's effectiveness in increasing stamina for exercising; the heart's pumping ability; symptoms, and blood levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants soak up the free radicals that help form the fatty obstructions, called plaque, in blood vessels, which can trigger a heart attack or stroke.

Individuals taking either of the beta-blockers for six months felt better, were able to exercise longer without becoming exhausted, and had a 5 percent increase in the ejection fraction test that measures the heart's

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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