Tuesday, August 31, 1999 Published at 11:33 GMT 12:33 UK
Heart drug 'could save one million lives'
Ramipril could prevent heart attacks
Up to a million lives could be saved by a drug which has been shown to significantly reduce the number of heart attacks and strokes in patients at high risk, say scientists.
In one of the biggest-ever global studies into prevention of heart disease, ramipril, a drug currently used to treat heart failure and high blood pressure has been proved to actually reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes in patients at risk of cardiovascular disease by between 20 and 30 per cent.
The results of the HOPE Study, a four and a half year trial of 9,500 patients in 19 countries, were announced to an international audience of heart specialists in Barcelona on Tuesday. They were so impressive that the study was stopped six months early.
The leading cardiologists who ran the study now believe these results will lead to radical changes in the way cardiovascular disease is managed.
Dr John Kennedy, a consultant cardiologist at Western Infirmary Glasgow and head of the HOPE study in the UK, said: "We have an enormous problem across the world with coronary heart disease and strokes - those pathologies account for virtually 50 per cent of all deaths in this country.
"Those who survive hospitalisation and go out into the world again are at risk of developing further events.
"At the time of discharge from hospital we would anticipate now that they would in future be prescribed ramipril on the basis of the evidence that accrued from this study.
Millions could be saved
Dr Salim Yusuf, chair of the HOPE study and Professor of Medicine at McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada, said: "If ramipril is widely used in high-risk patients, nearly one million unnecessary deaths, heart attacks and strokes, could be prevented each year."
The age range was deliberately wide, from 55 upwards, and included a high proportion of female patients who are often under-represented in cardiac research.
The study found that in addition to the significant reduction in recurrence, illness and cardiovascular death, there was also a significant drop in the number of patients needing costly invasive surgery, such as heart bypasses and balloon angioplasty.
Patients also reported very few side effects of taking the drug daily over several years.
Researchers have not yet identified how ramipril works in preventing the recurrence of cardiovascular conditions.
Ramipril is an ACE inhibitor - a family of drugs called angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors, used to reduce high blood pressure, and to treat congestive heart failure in heart-attack patients.
Ramipril has been used successfully in the UK for the treatment of high blood pressure since 1990.