SUNDAY, May 22 (HealthDay News) -- New Swedish research suggests
that the drug Inspra reduces the threat of major cardiovascular
complications among patients who have a mild form of heart
This latest finding builds on earlier work that was published by
New England Journal of Medicine last fall. That study
suggested that Inspra (eplerenone), an aldosterone antagonist,
helps control cardiovascular complications among patients with a
history of serious chronic heart failure.
Since far more people suffer from mild heart failure, this new
finding could mean the drug might benefit a far broader group of
patients, the researchers added.
The Swedish analysis makes an even stronger case for the use of
Inspra in patients with mild heart failure because, in addition to
reducing mortality, it also reduces the incidence of the irregular
heart beat condition known as atrial fibrillation, study co-author
Karl Swedberg, from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, said in
a news release from the European Society of Cardiology.
Atrial fibrillation "is a condition which both increases
morbidity and complicates the care of patients with heart failure,"
Swedberg and his colleagues were slated to present the findings
Sunday in Gothenburg at the Heart Failure Congress 2011, organized
by the Heart Failure Association of the European Society of
The study team noted that Inspra is currently approved for the
control of high blood pressure as well as for the treatment of
heart attack patients who experience congestive heart failure. It
is not yet approved for the treatment of patients who experience
mild heart failure. It is available generically in the United
States, according to the news release.
Experts estimate that almost 6 million people in the United
States suffer from heart failure.
The current finding stems from a re-analysis of a larger study
that involved more than 2,700 heart failure patients being cared
for at 278 different health centers.
Focusing specifically on those participants who had experienced
mild (class 2) heart failure, the authors found that just 2.7
percent of those patients who were placed on a regimen of between
25 milligrams to 50 milligrams daily of Inspra for a little less
than two years experienced atrial fibrillation.
This compared with 4.5 percent of those patients who were
randomized to receive a sugar pill instead.
Dr. Byron K. Lee, director of the Electrophysiology Laboratories
and Clinics within the division of cardiology at the University of
California, San Francisco, noted that exactly how Inspra seems to
help heart patients is not well understood.
"It is unclear how eplerenone works to lower the risk of abnormal heart rhythms like atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter," he said. "However, there are many potential mechanisms. One possibility is that eplerenone may help maintain potassium levels. Patients with heart failure are often on high-dose diuretics that remove fluid at the expense of removing potassium. Thats why heart failure patients need to watch their potassium level vigilantly."
For more on atrial fibrillation, go to
National Library of Medicine.