A drug made in County Wicklow reduces the risk of death and hospitalization due to heart failure by up to 25 percent.
Following the largest global study into chronic heart failure the results were outlined at the European Society of Cardiology in Sweden and will be published in the Lancet medic journal.
The drug, Ivabradine, was made at the Arklow plant, of Servier. Although the wonder drug was formerly used to treat angina the study found that it lowered the risk of hospitalization by 26 percent for those suffering from heart failure.
Professor Ken McDonald is the Health Service Executive of Ireland's national clinic program director of heart failure. He described the results of the research, known as the Shift study, as "very significant".
"We have not seen results like Shift in heart failure in some time, so this is of major clinical importance," said McDonald. "The problem of heart failure is reaching epidemic proportions in Ireland and worldwide due to our ageing population, so we urgently need better ways of managing this disease.”
Doctors have become very successful in treating heart attacks, "however, the result is that these patients remain with the left ventricle of their heart functionally impaired which usually leads to heart failure symptoms 10 years later.
“Figures show that if current hospitalization rates continue, this will be unsupportable in the coming decade.”
Moderate to severe heart failure would be measured as somebody with a heart rate of more than 70 beats per minute. Ivabradine reduces this rate considerably. Essentially the drug latches on to the electrical system in the heart which causes the heart rate to speed up.
McDonald said that 250,000 people in Ireland were suffering from chronic heart failure. In 2008 20,000 patients were admitted to hospital with heart failure and 90 percent of these were emergency admissions. Results have found that 50 percent of heart failure patients die within four years.