A new study reports one of the biggest potential advances against heart failure in more than a decade — a first-of-a-kind, experimental drug that lowered the chances of death or hospitalization by about 20 per cent.
Doctors say the Novartis drug — which doesn’t have a name yet — seems like one of those rare, breakthrough therapies that could quickly change care for more than half of the 6 million Americans and 24 million people worldwide with heart failure.
“This is a new day” for patients, said Dr. Clyde Yancy, cardiology chief at Northwestern University in Chicago and a former American Heart Association president.
“It’s been at least a decade since we’ve had a breakthrough of this magnitude,” said Yancy, who had no role in the study.
It involved nearly 8,500 people in 47 countries and was the largest experiment ever done in heart failure. It was paid for, designed and partly run by Novartis, based in Basel, Switzerland. Independent monitors stopped the study in April, seven months earlier than planned, when it was clear the drug was better than an older one that is standard now.
During the 27-month study, the Novartis drug cut the chances of dying of heart-related causes by 20 per cent and for any reason by 16 per cent, compared to the older drug. It also reduced the risk of being hospitalized for heart failure by 21 per cent.
“We are really excited,” said one study leader, Dr. Milton Packer of UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. The benefit “exceeded our original expectations.”
Results were disclosed Saturday at a European Society of Cardiology conference in Barcelona and published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.
Novartis will seek approval for the drug — for now called LCZ696 — by the end of this year in the United States and early next year in Europe
Heart failure is the top reason older people are hospitalized, and a leading cause of death. It develops when the heart muscle weakens over time and can no longer pump effectively, often because of damage from a heart attack. Fluid can back up into the lungs and leave people gasping for breath.
The people in this study were already taking three to five medicines to control the condition. One medicine often used is an ACE inhibitor, and the study tested one of these — enalapril, sold as Vasotec and in generic form — against the Novartis drug.
The new drug is a twice-a-day pill combination of two medicines that block the effects of substances that harm the heart while also preserving ones that help protect it. One of the medicines also dilates blood vessels and allows the heart to pump more effectively.
In the study, 26.5 per cent on the older drug, enalapril, died of heart-related causes or were hospitalized for heart failure versus less than 22 per cent of those on the Novartis drug. Quality of life also was better with the experimental drug.
“We now have a way of stabilizing and managing their disease which is better than what we could offer them before,” Packer said.
The new drug also seemed safe — reassuring because safety concerns doomed a couple of other promising-looking treatments over the last decade. There were more cases of too-low blood pressure and non-serious swelling beneath the skin with the Novartis drug, but more kidney problems, excess potassium in the blood and cough with the older drug. More people on the older treatment dropped out of the study than those on the new one.
About 32 people would need to be treated with the new drug to prevent one death from heart-related causes.
“That’s a favourable number,” said Dr. Joseph G. Rogers, a Duke University cardiologist with no role in the study. He said the benefits were big enough that “I would switch people over” as soon as the drug is available.
The drug “may well represent a new threshold of hope” for patients, Dr. Mariell Jessup, heart failure chief at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in a commentary in the journal. It may help “a wide spectrum of patients, even those who are currently receiving the best possible therapy.”
Heart failure information: http://tinyurl.com/2avrgpo
TORONTO – The Royal Canadian Mint on Friday unveiled four limited-edition Superman coins, reproducing colourful iconic images from DC Comics’ book covers.
Three of the new coins have been minted in silver, with face values of $10, $15 and $20 and the fourth in gold with a face value of $100. The mint is only producing 10,000 of each silver coin, and the gold coin is limited to a run of 2,000.
The coins were unveiled at Fan Expo Canada in Toronto by a federal minister who said he grew up with the “fantastic” adventures of Superman.
House Leader Peter Van Loan was also quick to point out the Man of Steel’s Canadian roots, saying Superman’s co-creator was Joe Shuster of Toronto.
“Folks of my generation will know him as a cousin of the famous comedian Frank Shuster of the Wayne and Shuster duo and Joe Shuster was, of course, born in the city,” said Van Loan, who brought his daughter and son along to the unveiling.
The new coins are based on art that graced comic book covers in 1938, 1972, 2001 and 2012, including Action Comics #1, which features Superman hoisting a green car above his head in “arguably the most famous comic book of all time,” the mint said.
The other coins feature images including Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent pulling back his shirt to reveal the S-Shield and Superman in the “classic iteration of his costume,” taking to the skies with his cape fluttering behind.
Their launch follows the release last year of seven Superman coins to mark the hero’s 75th anniversary.
“By celebrating Superman, we are highlighting the fact that many Canadians share a love of comic books and admiration for one of the world’s greatest pop culture heroes,” said Patrick Hadsipantelis, vice-president of marketing at the mint.
He said the new coins exemplify the mint’s internationally renowned craftsmanship.
The coins are on sale online now and will be available in Canada Post outlets and at other distributors starting next week. The silver coins retail between $69.95 and $109.75 while the 14-karat gold coin sells for $750.95.
Hadsipantelis said there had been international interest in the coins, but they are only available for sale to customers in Canada and the United States under the terms negotiated with DC Entertainment, which owns DC Comics.
However, there is no restriction in reselling them, he said.
OTTAWA – The big telecom companies may have agreed to exempt some customers from fees charged for paper invoices, but the federal government says it’s going to end the whole practice.
Industry Minister James Moore says the government will introduce legislation to end what is called pay-to-pay, the practice of charging people extra for a monthly bill on paper.
“We do not believe that Canadians should pay more to receive a paper copy of their telephone or wireless bill,” Moore said in a statement Friday.
The telecom firms met under the auspices of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission on Thursday and agreed to exempt some people, including seniors, the disabled, military vets and people without Internet access.
The CRTC said it wasn’t enough and called for another round of discussions, but that seems to have been overtaken by Moore’s announcement.
The minister says the practice of charging extra for paper invoices is unfair.
Moore says Canadians expect lower prices and better service from the telecoms.
“That is why our government committed to ending this unfair practice and putting the interests of Canadian consumers first,” he said.
Billing practices and fees are a patchwork in the industry.
Cogeco (TSX:CCA, TSX:CGO), which supplies cable, Internet and phone service in Ontario and Quebec, has never adopted the practice, although it does encourage customers to go paperless.
Other companies, however, do charge for paper bills — up to $6 per month in some cases, plus tax — and both the fees and exemption policies vary widely.
Rogers, for instance, has been known to waive its $2 fee if customers object for various reasons.
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre has estimated consumers pay $734 million every year in fees to get bills on paper.
And that’s the motivation for the telecom giants to keep the fees in place for as long as possible, said NDP critic Andrew Cash.
“It’s a cash cow that just keeps on giving, until the government comes in and puts in some strong legislation that bans the practice altogether,” he said.
“And that’s what we’ve been calling for.”
Cash said he would await the details contained in the legislation before saying whether he would support it, but called the announcement by Moore a positive step.
DOHA (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah said terrorism would soon spread to Europe and the United States unless it is quickly dealt with in the Middle East, the Saudi state news agency reported late on Friday.
The king made the statement during a reception for foreign ambassadors held in Jeddah.
“I ask you to convey this message to your leaders… Terrorism at this time is an evil force that must be fought with wisdom and speed,” said King Abdullah. “And if neglected I’m sure after a month it will arrive in Europe and a month after that in America.”
The world’s top oil exporter shares an 800-km (500-mile) border with Iraq, where Islamic State militants and other Sunni Islamist groups have seized towns and cities.
Riyadh has long expressed fears of being targeted by jihadists, including some of its own citizens, who have taken part in conflicts in Iraq and Syria. Earlier this year, it decreed long jail terms for those who travel abroad to fight.
Britain raised its terrorism alert on Friday and Prime Minister David Cameron said Islamic State posed the greatest ever security risk to the country.