Heart failure drug may benefit 20,000 patients

A novel treatment for heart failure — one of nine drugs caught up in a dispute over funding earlier this year — is available from today to Irish patients under the State’s reimbursement scheme.

Entresto, for the treatment of symptomatic chronic heart failure in adult patients with a reduced ejection fraction — when the muscle of the left ventricle is not pumping blood as well as normal — could potentially benefit up to 20,000 people.

That’s according to a budgetary impact analysis by the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics (NCPE) which estimated that the net drug budget impact over five years could exceed €50m.

Professor Carl Vaughan, consultant cardiologist at the Mercy University Hospital (MUH), said Entresto (sacubitril/valsartan) is “one of the first novel therapeutics for treating heart failure in over a decade”.

He said heart failure is “a huge problem in Ireland”, that it has a very high prevalence, and when it leads to hospitalisation the patient’s length of stay is “even longer than for heart attack”.

This is because it takes time to manage.

“It can’t be done in a day or two, you are trying to remove fluid (heart failure can lead to a buildup of fluid in the body) and when the patient does go home, the re-admittance rate is high,” said Prof Vaughan.

Patricia Campbell, a consultant cardiologist at St Vincent’s University Hospital, said the main benefits are a 20% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular death and a 21% reduction in hospitalisations, “compared to those given the standard therapy”.

Research has shown that at least one in five Irish people can expect to develop heart failure in their lifetime. Despite this, only 7% of can correctly identify three symptoms of heart failures such as fatigue, pain, breathing difficulty, and depression.

Prof Vaughan said patients should discuss with their doctor whether they meet the criteria to access the new drug.

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