By Marilynn Marchione
A new study reports one of the biggest potential advances against heart failure in more than a decade -- a first-of-a-kind, experimental drug that lowered the chances of death or hospitalization by about 20 percent.
Doctors say the Novartis (NVS) drug -- which doesn't have a name yet -- seems like one of those rare, breakthrough therapies that could quickly change care for more than half of the 6 million Americans and 24 million people worldwide with heart failure.
"This is a new day" for patients, said Dr. Clyde Yancy, cardiology chief at Northwestern University in Chicago and a former American Heart Association president.
"It's been at least a decade since we've had a breakthrough of this magnitude," said Yancy, who had no role in the study.
The study involved nearly 8,500 people in 47 countries and was the largest experiment ever done in heart failure. It was paid for, designed and partly run by Novartis, based in Basel, Switzerland. Independent monitors stopped the study in April, seven months earlier than planned, when it was clear the drug was better than an older one that is standard now.
During the 27-month study, the Novartis drug cut the chances of dying of heart-related causes by 20 percent and for any reason by 16 percent, compared to the older drug. It also reduced the risk of being hospitalized for heart failure by 21 percent.
"We are really excited," said one study leader, Dr. Milton Packer of UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. The benefit "exceeded our original expectations."