In other research presented Tuesday, a phase II trial found that interferon, a drug used for both hepatitis and neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, eliminated or reduced three viruses from heart-failure patients who had evidence of persistent viral infection.
There was also a slight trend toward better cardiac function and quality of life, though not a statistically significant one, the German study authors said.
"Future trials will test clinical efficacy and how that balances the inconvenience and cost," said Dr. Michael Felker, of the Duke Heart Center. One course of the drug costs about $10,000, and patients need to receive injections every other day.
Another study presented Tuesday found that a so-called biomarker -- a hormone called mid-regional pro-adrenomedullin (MR-pro-ADM) -- was superior to the best established biomarkers for predicting if patients coming to an emergency room with shortness of breath and a diagnosis of heart failure would be dead or alive at 90 days. The marker was even better at predicting outcomes at 30 days, the study authors said.
"Taking a simple blood sample at the time of admission and being able to predict prognosis for 30 days adds to the ability to triage patients and push those patients with the highest medical need to the front line of medical care," said Dr. Stefan D. Anker of Charite Medical School in Berlin, Germany.
But, Dr. Milton Packer, chair of the Department of Clinical Sciences at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, questioned whether medicine really needs another biomarker for this purpose. "You can't use this to push patients to the front of the line, because everyone should get optimal therapy for chronic heart failure," he said.
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