Study shows drug reduces heart attack risk by 40%

AN Irish-made drug used to lower the heart rate in people with heart disease can help reduce the risk of heart attack by more than 40%, according to new research.

Ivabradine, manufactured in Co Wicklow, has also cut the incidence of heart surgery and other surgical procedures by more than half in angina patients, according to a global study on heart disease.

The results of the research – known as the BEAUTIFUL study – were presented yesterday at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress in Barcelona.

Commenting on its findings, Prof Ken McDonald, consultant cardiologist at St Vincent’s University Hospital, said Ivabradine, when used in addition to more conventional heart disease drugs, was particularly effective.

“Its main advantage is to improve heart rate in a patient where the resting heart rate remains above what it should be despite conventional treatment. Where beta-blockers are not feasible to use or where they have proved ineffective, then Procoralan [a trade name of Ivabradine] is good to use,” he said.

Prof McDonald, who is attending congress, said the higher the resting heart rate, the worse the outlook: “The information we have shows that if you have angina and if your heart rate remains high, then Procoralan can bring it down to a safe level.”

He said the drug allowed doctors to “intervene more effectively” when a patient’s resting heart rate registered as higher than normal during routine heart-rate measurement in the management of heart disease.

Prof McDonald said the drug had been in use in Ireland for about a year and had very few side-effects.

“In the period of time we have been using it, the most reported side-effect is visual, that flashing lights’ sensation,” he said.

The findings of the study, published in the European Heart Journal, show that for angina patients who have a resting heart rate higher than 70 beats per minute, Ivabradine reduces the risk of being hospitalised due to a heart attack by 73%.

Ivabradine is produced by the French pharmaceutical company Servier at its plant in Arklow, Co Wicklow, which currently employs 240 people. It was licensed for use in Ireland in December 2005.

The BEAUTIFUL study is one the largest of its kind with 10,917 CAD (coronary artery disease) patients in 781 centres across four continents, including five Irish centres.

Heart disease remains Ireland’s number one killer. Approximately 10,000 Irish people die of cardiovascular disease every year and of these 5000 die of heart attack. According to CSO figures released yesterday 1,119 deaths in 2008 were due to ischaemic heart disease, that leads to angina.

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