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New Drug Helps Those with Irregular Heart Problems

Posted - Jan. 12, 2004 at 5:06 p.m.



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Doctor Kim Mulvihill reporting There is good news for millions of Americans suffer from irregular heart problems.

Every year around 2 million Americans are diagnosed with a trial fibrillation. It's an irregular heart condition that puts them at increased risk of stroke.

There is a drug to help reduce that risk, but it's not easy to take.

Now a new medication could make life much easier for everyone.

Like millions of older Americans, Janet and Ed Collom suffer from a trial fibrillation. It is a condition where the heart fails to pump blood properly around the body... that can lead to blood clots.. and ultimately a stroke.

To treat it Janet takes a drug called Coumadin. It thins the blood.. making clots less likely. But Coumadin requires patients to get regular blood tests to make sure they are getting the right dosage.

Janet Collom: "If it's high I go back in a week and check on it, and if it's regular again I don't have to go back for a month."

Coumadin can also interact with many other medications.. and foods that contain vitamin K. Things like spinach and broccoli.

Dr. Greg Albers Stanford Medical Center, Stroke Center: "About half the people who should be on coumadin don't take it and one of the reasons is that they don't like all the encumbrances of coumadin, going to the laboratory, watching the diet, watching for the drug interactions, people don't like to get those blood tests, its unpleasant for them."

But now a new drug called Exanta could change that.

Two studies of 74-hundred people worldwide showed Exanta was just as good as coumadin at reducing the risk of stroke.

It also had fewer side effects and was easier to take.

Ed Collom Has Atrial Fibrillation: "Nothing at all.. Pill in the morning And a pill at night and that's it."

Exanta does not require regular blood tests.. and does not interact with food or other medications.

Dr. Greg Albers Stanford Medical Center, Stroke Center: 'We can give the same dose to every patient, you don't have to vary the dose up and down.. one dose fits all."

Ed has been taking it as part of a clinical trial for four years.

Ed Collom: "They started me on this new drug and I'm still here, so I presume It's working."

In a small number of patients the drug did cause some irritation to the liver.. but that was temporary. The drug is now being considered by the F-D-A for approval. If it gets the go-ahead.. it could be available within the next year.

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