An over-the-counter medication used to treat heartburn and acid reflux also appears to help decrease the debilitating effects of chronic heart failure, preliminary research shows. But more testing must be done before the drug is recommended for use by heart failure patients, doctors say.
According to the research, the same type of chemical reaction that allows stomach acid to cause heartburn and create ulcers also appears to damage and weaken diseased hearts. Blocking this process with the drug famotidine (Pepcid) may help to slow the progression of chronic heart failure (CHF).
The research, conducted by the National Cardiovascular Center in Suitra, Japan, appears in the Oct. 3, 2006 edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Lead researcher Masafumi Kitakaze, MD, PhD, said although the initial results look promising, more research is needed.
"We performed the present prospective study with only 50 CHF patients," said Dr. Kitakaze, director of the Cardiovascular Division and vice president of the Research and Clinical Center at the National Cardiovascular Center. "Now we need to conduct a large-scale trial to confirm the present findings. The large-scale trial based on the results our present research may not help current heart failure patients because it takes time, but we hope it helps our children and grandchildren and others in the future."
Gary Francis, MD, did not participate in the research, but is a cardiologist and heart failure expert at Ohio's Cleveland Clinic. He, too, cautions that the benefits of famotidine for CHF patients remain unclear.
"At this point, we don't know whether it would help," said Dr. Francis, head of the Section of Clinical Cardiology at Cleveland Clinic. "In addition, there is an expense involved, and we're not certain what the dose should be or what the safety would be of larger doses if they were necessary.