Drugs taken together lowers heart attacks

March 31, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Clinical trials on a treatment for hypertension were so successful at stopping heart attacks that the trials were stopped early, so that study could be released Monday. And what it found was that a combination of two generic drugs appears to lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes by nearly a quarter.

This study may make it easier for those battling high blood pressure. Investigators for the drug manufacturer Novartis were able to put the two drugs in one pill, greatly reducing the risk of death from heart attacks. Monday's results may change the way many patients are treated.

Hypertension now affects more than 50 million Americans. That's almost one out of every three adults. The higher a person's blood pressure, the greater the health risks.

"It causes heart attacks strokes, causes heart failure and kidney failure," said Dr. Kersh.

Dr. Edward Kersh is the Chief of Cardiology at San Francisco's St. Luke's Hospital. He says combination drug therapy has been around for years, but patients have historically been prescribed one expensive pill after another for their condition. Monday's news, that combining two generic drugs in one pill reduces the risk of death from heart attacks, he says is great for at risk patients. The combination greatly reduces one factor of death by heart disease.

"Hypertension is one and it's a potent one. Then you have high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, family history. Now you can't change family history but you can do a lot about the other four," said Dr. Kersh.

In Chicago drug manufacturer Novartis on Monday announced the results of their trials on the dual drug therapy. The study involved 11,000 patients. It found that the use of the two drugs in one pill, an ace inhibitor and a calcium channel blocker, was so effective that about half of the patients got their blood pressure under control.

"This is the first major study to bring blood pressure this low. In this number of patients" said Dr. Silva Virginia from Commonwealth University.

Dr. Kersh says at risk patients are more likely to afford and remember to take just one pill for their condition.

"They take it all in one pill it insures they get the full hypertensive effect," said Dr. Kersh.

Present government guidelines encourage the use of a single drug therapy for hypertension. This study challenges that recommendation. Armed with the study physicians say can treat patients with the most effective drugs and get by insurance requirements that often cite government recommendations.

If the government changes the guidelines then that gives practicing physicians a lot of clout with the insurance companies," said Dr. Kersh.

Dr. Kersh says that in discount pharmacies a month's supply of this medication could cost from $6 to 8 dollars. That would make it very affordable for the people who really need it.