New heart drug significantly reduces deaths and hospitalisation.

A new heart medication has been shown to cut instances of heart failure mortality by a fifth, and is expected to be on the market as early as next year.


Image: Julija Sapic/Shutterstock

Named LCZ696, the new drug is still in the trial phase, but has been shown to dramatically reduce cardiovascular deaths and the risk of hospitalisation for people with chronic heart failure.

The drug is being developed by Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, and was recently put to the test in the largest trial ever undertaken in heart failure, involving more than 8,400 patients. Compared to an existing heart drug, called enalapril, LCZ696’s effects were so significant and so overwhelmingly positive throughout this trial, a team of independent investigators ended it early. This is the first time in 25 years that a new drug has been proven to be more effective than existing heart medications.

According to Ben Hirschler at Reuters, not only does LCZ696 reduce deaths and hospital admissions, patients who were treated with it also reported feeling measurably better than those who were treated with enalapril. One of the principle investigators, John McMurray from the Clinical Research Initiative in Heart Failure at the University of Glasgow in the UK, reported its effects as “astonishing”.

“Once this drug becomes available, it would be difficult to understand why physicians would continue to use traditional (drugs) … for the treatment of heart failure,” said another of the principle investigators, Milton Packer from the Department of Clinical Sciences at the University of Texas in the US.

While the trial ended five months ago, the full results were only just released at the 2014 European Society of Cardiology Congress, the world’s largest cardiology conference. The results will also be published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.

“This result is better than we ever could have anticipated,” Novartis’s head, David Epstein, told Reuters.

According to the results of the trial, patients who took LCZ696 were 20 percent less likely than those on enalapril to die from cardiovascular causes and 21 percent less likely to be admitted to hospital, says Hirschler at Reuters. The results can be converted to approximately 90,000 fewer deaths per year in the US and Europe if patients with heart conditions were switched to the new LCZ696 drug, Epstein adds. The drug is expected to be on the market as early as next year.

Mariell Jessup, a heart failure expert from the University of Pennsylvania in the US, who was not involved in the study, commented that the new drug, “may well represent a new threshold of hope for patients with heart failure”.