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Breakthrough Therapy For Heart Failure

Breakthrough Therapy For Heart Failure

Media Release 20 May 2004

Breakthrough therapy for heart failure offers patients a longer life

Many New Zealanders currently suffering from heart failure have been offered new hope with the publication today of a landmark trial in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The COMPANION Trial (Comparison of Medical Therapy, Pacing, and Defibrillation in Heart Failure trial) has shown for the first time that a cardiac device could reduce the risk of death by up to 36% amongst New Zealanders living with the disease (see footnote 1).

"These results could revolutionise the way heart failure is treated in New Zealand," according to Dr Jim Stewart, Interventional Cardiologist at Auckland City Hospital.

"By implanting a matchbox-sized cardiac resynchronisation therapy (CRT) device, this trial was able to demonstrate a reduction in the number of deaths and an increase in the quality of life for patients with heart failure," Dr Stewart said.

COMPANION provides compelling evidence More than 1,500 US heart failure patients were enrolled in three groups and all received medicine to manage their disease.

The first group received medicine only, the second group also received an implantable cardiac resynchronisation therapy (CRT) device which helps synchronise the heart's pumping ability, while the final group received a device combining CRT therapy with a defibrillator (or CRT-D) which can shock a rapidly beating heart back to normal rhythm.

The results of the COMPANION trial were overwhelming, with both patient groups on CRT experiencing significantly improved health outcomes.

The trial results showed a substantial 34% per cent reduction in death or hospitalisation for heart failure amongst patients with a CRT device, versus those treated with medication alone. When defibrillation was added to the CRT system, there was a 40% reduction in death or hospitalisation for heart failure, and a 36% reduction in the risk of death alone.

Heart failure a major public health problem According to Dr Stewart, heart failure is a major public health problem in New Zealand, which results in huge financial drain and emotional strain on society.

"This COMPANION trial proves for the first time that significantly improved patient outcomes can be achieved with cardiac resynchronisation therapy, over and above what we can currently offer with medication alone in New Zealand," Dr Stewart said.

"By utilising both CRT and medication, we can offer some people with heart failure a new option which improves the way they feel, enhances their quality of life and allows them to live longer," he said.

New Zealand patient labeled a "miracle" after CRT therapy 69-year-old Ken Hayes used to spend long periods of time in hospital every year because of cardiovascular disease.

Since having a CRT device implanted in September 2000, he has been named a "miracle" patient with significant improvements to his health.

Before CRT therapy the left side of Ken's heart was about the size of a child's football, however after 33 months with the implant his heart was reduced back to its normal size. Ken's blood pressure has also returned to normal, and is in fact like that of a young man.

"The pacemaker has totally changed my life. I haven't had to stay a night in hospital for ages.

"I consider myself a living testimony to the incredible outcomes that can be achieved with these amazing implant devices," Mr Hayes concluded.


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