An experimental drug that doctors hoped would help strengthen the hearts of people with chronic heart failure appears no more effective than a long-used medication, researchers reported last week.
A study involving 230 patients with chronic heart failure found those who received the drug milrinone did not do significantly better than those who received the long-used drug digoxin, the researchers said.
At least 4 million Americans are estimated to suffer from chronic heart failure, a condition in which the heart loses its ability to pump blood. The most common cause is coronary artery disease.
Digoxin has been used to treat the disease by increasing the ability of the heart to contract. Researchers had hoped milrinone, which was developed by Sterling-Winthrop of Rensselaer, N.Y., would be more potent.
Dr. Robert DiBianco of the Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, Md., who conducted the study, said in the New England Journal of Medicine that the drug may offer an alternative to patients who cannot take digoxin.