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New Drug Shows Promise Against Heartbeat Abnormality
Date:2/11/2009

Dronedarone reduced strokes, heart attacks in those with atrial fibrillation

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 11 (HealthDay News) -- A new drug for a common heartbeat abnormality produced promising results in its latest trial.

The drug, dronedarone, is being tested for atrial fibrillation, which affects an estimated 2.2 million Americans. The upper chambers of their hearts quiver, rather than beating vigorously, allowing the formation of blood clots that can block a brain artery and cause a stroke.

In an international trial that included 2,301 people with atrial fibrillation, dronedarone (Multaq) reduced the incidence of hospitalization due to stroke, heart attacks and other problems by 24 percent, compared to placebo, according to a report in the Feb. 12 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

About 30 percent of those who started the trial discontinued use of the drug -- at an average of about 21 months -- roughly the same percentage as those receiving the placebo.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has assigned priority review status to dronedarone, and an FDA advisory committee will meet March 19 to discuss its possible approval.

"I believe this will be approved favorably," said Dr. Richard L. Page, head of the division of cardiology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, who took part in the study. "The overall literature on this drug shows both efficacy and safety."

Atrial fibrillation affects one in 20 Americans by the age of 65, and one in 10 by 85, Page said. Current drug treatments include beta blockers and calcium channel blockers.

Dronedarone is a chemical relative of amiodarone, a drug that has severe side effects but still is widely used in atrial fibrillation. Amiodarone includes iodine, which can cause thyroid problems, and "it takes a while to have an effect," Page said. "You must give relatively high doses early to saturate the body before it ha
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