Drug approved for tackling heart failure set to help 100,000 people


Health officials have given the green light to a new drug that can "transform" the lives of people living with heart failure.

Around 100,000 people will benefit from using the drug sacubitril valsartan, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said after recommending the drug for some NHS patients.

The drug helps people with heart failure manage their symptoms which can include: shortness of breath; swelling of the feet, stomach and lower back; and fatigue.

Heart failure happens when the heart muscle cannot pump enough blood to meet the needs of the body and it affects over half a million people in the UK.

Nice said that giving out the drug to patients, which costs £3 a day, could mean than there are 30,000 fewer hospital admissions in England because of heart failure.

It could also prevent deaths, the health body said.

The drug will be made available to those whose hearts are only able to pump a reduced amount of oxygenated blood around the body and whose instances of heart failure are not controlled by the commonly used drugs, ACE inhibitors or ARBs.

Sacubitril valsartan, manufactured by Novartis, is the first of a new kind of drug. It works by widening the blood vessels and increasing blood flow while reducing blood pressure and taking the strain off the heart.

"We are pleased to be able to recommend this innovative new treatment for those people with a severely reduced ejection fraction (when a heart is only able to pump a reduced amount of oxygenated blood around the body) and whose symptoms can mean they are almost constantly bedbound," said Professor Carole Longson, director of Nice's Health Technology Evaluation Centre.

"This recommendation will help ease the symptoms of very ill people, improve their quality of life and help them to take part in normal daily activities. It should also reduce their need for hospital treatment."

Commenting on the news, Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "There is currently no cure for heart failure and we welcome the news that this drug will now be available to some patients to help control and manage their condition.

"In the UK over half a million people are living with this crippling illness which can cause chronic breathlessness and fatigue, leaving patients with a long and difficult fight for life."