2008-08-31 16:59:52.790 GMT
By Eva von Schaper
Aug. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Fish oil capsules prevent death and
hospital stays in patients whose hearts fail to pump correctly,
researchers said. In a related study, AstraZeneca Plc's Crestor
cholesterol-lowering drug didn't help them.
GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Pronova BioPharma ASA's Lovaza
capsules lowered heart failure patients' risk of dying from the
condition by 9 percent, and the risk of hospitalization by 8
percent, Italian researchers said at a medical conference in
Munich today. In a separate study by the same scientists,
patients using Crestor showed no improvement compared with those
taking a placebo.
``Heart failure patients are very ill individuals; if you
can help them, that's a very good thing,'' said Jaakko
Tuomilehto, an epidemiologist at the University of Helsinki.
Heart failure is a lifelong condition in which the organ
can't pump enough blood to keep up with the body's needs. While
doctors can treat the disorder with a number of medicines, they
are looking for additional ways to improve patients' health.
Smaller studies had led the scientists to believe fish oil may
have a calming effect on irregular heart rhythms. They also
wanted to see if Crestor's anti-inflammatory properties could
The study followed 6,975 patients with chronic heart failure
who were either given one gram of fish oil daily or a dummy pill.
The doctors followed up on the patients for a mean of 3.9 years.
Patients who exactly followed the treatment regime saw their risk
of death drop by 14 percent, the researchers said.
Fish oil, which contains omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty
acids, may make the heart beat more rhythmically, said lead
scientist Gianni Tognoni of the ANMCO Research Center in
Florence, Italy, in an interview. He called the benefit
``moderate,'' and said he had expected a larger decrease in risk
in patients taking a daily fish-oil pill. The research is the
first to assess the effects of polyunsaturated fatty acids in
heart failure patients.
``This is an important study,'' Robert Bonow, a cardiologist
at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, said in an
interview. ``Even though these patients were on the right
medication, the addition of polyunsaturated fatty acids led to a
reduction in adverse outcomes.''
The results may boost sales of GlaxoSmithKline and Lysaker,
Norway-based Pronova BioPharma's Lovaza. London-based Glaxo has
the U.S. rights to the treatment. Citigroup analysts including
Kevin Wilson estimated in an Aug. 20 note that Lovaza will have
2010 U.S. sales of 487 million pounds ($887 million).
While eating fish has been shown in studies to help those
with cardiovascular disease, it isn't yet clear whether dietary
choices would have an effect on heart failure, Tognoni said. A
daily dose of one gram would be difficult to achieve by diet
alone, Tuomilehto said.
In a separate study, the same group of researchers gave
4,574 patients either placebo or AstraZeneca's Crestor, which
belongs to a class of cholesterol-lowering medicines known as
statins. High levels of cholesterol can increase the risk of
heart attacks and strokes. The patients did equally well on both
pills in the study.
``There is no indication for using statins on top of other
treatments for heart failure patients,'' Tognoni said. The
medicine brought in $2.8 billion last year for London-based