Study: Heart drugs don't halt death

November 08, 1993|By New York Times News Service

ATLANTA -- Two drugs commonly used to treat heart attacks show little or no benefit in preventing death, and a third shows only a small benefit, according to the largest study of heart attack patients ever conducted.

Leading experts had predicted that the study, presented at a scientific meeting in Atlanta yesterday, would confirm the benefits of all three drugs. Heart attacks are the leading cause of death in the United States and many other countries.

The three drugs were magnesium; nitrates like nitroglycerin; and captopril, a member of the class of drugs known as converting-enzyme inhibitors. Earlier studies suggested all three drugs worked.

The new study was organized by researchers at Oxford University in England. Their three earlier studies have had an important impact on the practice of medicine in the United States and elsewhere.

One suggested treatment for heart attacks included aspirin, injection of a second drug to dissolve clots in the coronary arteries, and a third drug, a beta-blocker, to limit the damage from the heart attack.

That therapy cut the death rate from heart attacks, to 8 percent from 13 percent, when given in the first hours after a heart attack. Follow-up studies have shown that the survival benefit lasts for years.

This mode of therapy -- aspirin, clot-dissolving drugs, and beta blockers -- has become a widely accepted method of treating heart attacks. The Oxford group then set out to determine whether even further benefit could be gained by adding other drugs to the standard regimen.

The new study involved 58,000 patients who were treated for heart attacks in more than 1,000 hospitals in 30 countries in Europe, Australia, and North, Central and South America from July 1991 to August 1993.

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