Magazine article Science News

Heart-Rhythm Drugs Found Risky for Many

Magazine article Science News

Heart-Rhythm Drugs Found Risky for Many

Article excerpt

Heart-rhythm drugs found risky for many

Noting that two drugs under evaluation increased patients' chances of sudden cardiac death, federal officials this week halted a major portion of a large, multicenter clinical trial designed to evaluate the long-term effectiveness of drugs that suppress abnormal heart rhythms. early results of the National Institutes of Health-sponsored study have prompted the FDA to narrow its recommendations for use of the two drugs, both of which have been on the market for more than two years.

Study patients taking encainide (marketed as Enkaid by Bristol Laboratories in Evansville, Ind.) and flecainide (marketed as Tambocor by 3M Riker in St. Paul, Minn.) showed a two- to three-fold greater risk of cardiac arrest or death compared with patients taking placebo after an average treatment period of 10 months. A third drug in the trial, moricizine, so far shows no significant adverse or beneficial trends in comparison with placebo and will continue under investigation. Moricizine has yet to gain FDA approval and is not available for general use.

Begun in June 1987 and designed to run until 1992, the Cardiac Arrhythmia Suppression Trial sought to compare each of the three drugs to placebo in a total of 4,400 patients who had a heart attack and developed arrhythmias within two years before enrollment in the study. Earlier tests had confirmed that both of the FDA-approved drugs suppress cardiac arrhythmias. But this trial was the first to examine death rates in patients taking the drugs. …

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