Teerlink's study involved 34 healthy men who received the drug intravenously once a week for one month. It was designed to determine the optimal dosing regimen for the new drug.
The other study, conducted at the University of Hull in East Yorkshire, England, marks the first time that the agent was studied in people with heart failure. The researchers said omecamtiv mecarbil safely improved cardiac function in 45 people with heart failure who were already receiving standard treatment.
Dr. Ronald Zolty, director of the heart failure program at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, is cautiously optimistic about the new heart failure drug.
"It is a promising drug, but we have been down this road before," he said.
"When you have heart failure, the pumping action of the heart is weak, so not enough blood gets to the body, and you feel short of breath, sleep a lot and your kidneys don't work," Zolty explained.
Existing drugs do improve the "squeeze," but they also increase mortality, he said.
Dr. Michele Hamilton, director of the heart failure program at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, agreed with Zolty on the need for a new heart failure drug.
"The major problem we face in treating heart failure is how can we make the heart squeeze harder," she said. To date, no medications have proven effective or safe, and as a result, doctors focus on getting rid of excess fluid buildup and reducing stress on the heart, she said.
Medications that make the heart squeeze harder put more stress on the heart, and the patients die sooner. "It is akin to whipping a tired horse as it goes uphill," she said.
"It's great to see a new medication being tested and developed," Hamilton said. But, "we are far away from the finish line."
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