Health Team

Test Drug Shows Mixed Results in Heart Patients

Posted March 27, 2007 4:17 p.m. EDT
Updated March 27, 2007 6:33 p.m. EDT

Each year, about a million Americans are hospitalized with heart failure. A new drug may make those patients more comfortable more quickly, but a new study shows its benefits are limited.

Gary Larocque said he will never forget being in the hospital with heart failure.

"Boy, you're gasping for air," Larocque said. "They said I was drowning in my own fluids because my heart was so weak."

"The vast majority of (patients with heart failure) have fluid overload because fluid backs up behind the failing heart, and fluid accumulates in the lungs, in the abdomen and in the ankles," said Dr. Marvin Konstam with Tufts New England Medical Center in Boston.

A worldwide study tested a new drug called Tolvaptan. The drug slows a hormone that causes the body to hold onto fluid during heart failure.

The study findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, show that Tolvaptan helped patients feel better in less than a day, with less shortness of breath and less fluid build-up. However, the drug did not help patients live any longer.

"But at the same time, we didn't see any evidence that it hastened death or that it reduced survival," Konstam said.

Konstam said the short-terms benefits are clear. The federal Food and Drug Administration has yet to review the the studies of Tolvaptan, so the drug isn't available yet.

Many heart-failure patients currently receive diuretics to treat fluid build-up, but that medication doesn't work for everyone and it can be hard on the kidneys. The study showed Tolvaptan did not affect the kidneys.

The maker of Tolvaptan funded the study.