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Congestive Heart Failure

We hear so much these days about advances in heart bypass surgery, but treating heart failure is another matter entirely. Congestive heart failure is one of the most difficult conditions to treat. But as CBS 2’s Healthwatch reporter Paul Moniz tells us, the first new treatment in more than a decade could be right around the corner.

Congestive heart failure affects 5 million Americans. It’s a condition in which fluid retention causes the heart to perform inefficiently, reducing circulation to the body’s organs and causing severe symptoms like shortness of breath.

For the first time in more than ten years, a potential new treatment is showing promise. It’s an intravenously administered drug called Nesiritide.

Nesiritide, marketed as Natrecor, is a genetically engineered version of a natural hormone in the body. " It dilates the arteries, dilates the vein and reduces pressure in the system and takes the workload off the heart," says James Young, M.D. of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

Results from the so-called U-Mac trial show it works better than intravenous nitroglycerin, one of the current standards of treatment. Dr. Young says that Nesiritide is effective, easy to use and safe.

The study, discussed at a recent American Heart Association meeting shows that Natrecor also causes fewer side effects than nitroglycerin. The most common is headache, although it occurs less frequently than with nitroglycerin. The study results suggest Natrecor could become an important treatment for acute congestive heart failure in the future.

Scios Incorporated, the makers of Natrecor, will submit data from this study to the FDA by the end of this year. The agency will then consider whether to approve the drug for widespread use.

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