NHS green light for 1.40-a-day heart pill that could save lives of thousands of suffering from common heart condition



00:12 GMT, 7 August 2012

Approved: The pill will cost less than 10 a week

Approved: The pill will cost less than 10 a week

A pill costing only 1.40-a-day that could save the lives of thousands suffering from a common heart condition is set to be approved for NHS use.

The drug ivabradine slows heart rate and improves its pumping ability, with data showing it cuts deaths by at least 17 per cent.

Around one in five of the 900,000 Britons with heart failure – almost 200,000 patients – could benefit from treatment costing less than 10 a week, say specialists.

And it could also slash NHS costs by cutting hospital admissions by more than a quarter.

Draft guidance from NHS drug rationing body the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, says the drug is affordable.

Dr Terry McCormack, a council member of the Primary Care Cardiovascular Society, said it would benefit many patients who cannot take beta blockers, standard drugs used to reduce heart rate.

Others are on the maximum dose but still have a heart rate that is too fast – over 75 beats a minute. Ivabradine lowers heart beats to around 60 per minute without reducing blood pressure.

Dr McCormack, a GP in Whitby, North Yorkshire, said: ‘This is good news. We have proof that it works, it’s safe and the drug is beneficial.

‘It will be particularly valuable for patients who cannot take beta blockers’ he added.

Previously, heart specialists estimated that prescribing ivabradine could save up to 10,000 lives a year.

Trials two years ago found a 26 per
cent cut in hospitalisation, a 39 per cent cut in death from heart
failure and 17 per cent reduction in the risk of dying from any cause.

Ivabradine, also known as Procoralan, is already taken by around 20,000 angina patients.

was licensed in March by European safety regulators for heart failure.
The drug costs the NHS about 500 a year, around 1.40 a day.

Drug Ivabradine has been proven to lower heart beats to 60 per minute without lowering blood pressure

Drug Ivabradine has been proven to lower heart beats to 60 per minute without lowering blood pressure

Dr Bernard Prendergast, honorary secretary of the British Cardiovascular Society, said: ‘Heart failure is a very dangerous and serious condition.

‘We already have some good treatments but welcome the opportunity to use new evidence based drugs for eligible patients.’

More than 700,000 people over the age of 45 live with heart failure, which occurs when damage to the heart leaves it too weak to pump blood efficiently round the body. Around 100,000 a year are thought to die from it.

An estimated 68,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Heart failure causes symptoms of fatigue, breathlessness, increased heart rate and swollen ankles, and it can lead to serious complications.

Heart failure soaks up one to per cent and two per cent of the total NHS budget, with direct medical costs alone amounting to 625 million a year.

Figures show 15 per cent of British patients die in hospital from heart failure – twice the European average – partly because of late diagnosis and treatment that fails to adequately control symptoms.

Professor Carole Longson, NICE Health Technology Evaluation Centre Director, said ‘Although the prognosis for people with heart failure has been improving over recent years, largely as a result of better treatments, heart failure can have a significant detrimental impact on quality of life, particularly in terms of affecting a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks.

‘In clinical trials ivabradine has been shown to have a beneficial effect in reducing mortality and improving quality of life in people with some types of chronic heart failure.

‘The Committee was mindful that there is robust evidence for the effectiveness of ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers and aldosterone antagonists that are used routinely in managing heart failure.

‘They concluded that ivabradine should be initiated only after optimal treatment with these drugs has been achieved when patients are still symptomatic after receiving optimised initial therapies, or when beta-blockers are contraindicated as specified in the marketing authorisation or not tolerated by the patients.’