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Thursday, August 13, 1998 Published at 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK


Heart trouble? Try rattlesnake venom

Rattlesnake: may help save lives

Rattlesnake venom may be the secret ingredient required to prevent heart attacks in people with cardiac disease, scientists have discovered.

Researchers have found that Integrilin, a drug derived from rattlesnake venom, decreased the number of heart attacks and deaths among people suffering from chest pains, or unstable angina, and from "small" heart attacks.

In a massive study of 10,948 patients in 27 countries, the drug was found to cut the risk of heart attacks or death by 1.5% worldwide (3.5% in the United States).

Significant results

Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers, from the US and Holland, said the results may seem modest, but given the magnitude of the disease, they are actually significant.

Dr Robert Harrington, assistant professor at the US Duke University Medical Centre, said: "Our findings represent another step along the way toward preventing death and heart attack in patients who are at risk."

In some countries, men appeared to benefit more from the drug than women, but in the United States, both benefited equally from Integrilin.

In the study, patients took either a placebo or Integrilin for up to 72 hours and, after 30 days, were assessed for the effectiveness of the drug.

Integrilin showed the same side effects as aspirin or heparin, traditional treatments for unstable angina.

An alternative treatment

Prof Harrington said: "Given the public health consequences of the disease, we feel this drug provides yet another alternative for patients who don't respond to other treatments.

"For every thousand people you treat, you are potentially avoiding 35 serious events."

The US Food and Drug Administration approved Integrilin for use earlier this year.

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