Popular blood-pressure drug may not be best medication
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March 4, 1998
Web posted at: 6:41 p.m. EST (2341 GMT)
From Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen
(CNN) -- A new study has found that calcium channel blockers, a widely used drug used to reduce blood pressure, may not be as effective as another medication called ace inhibitors.
In a study reported in this week's New England Journal of Medicine, 235 patients taking calcium channel blockers were compared to 235 patients taking ace inhibitors.
The study found that 10 of those taking calcium channel blockers died during the five-year study, while only five of those taking ace inhibitors died.
Dr. Virgil Brown, an Emory University cardiologist and a past president of the American Heart Association, said that while the study is small, it supports other evidence suggesting that ace inhibitors seem to be the better medication.
"I think this group of drugs is developing a very nice track record in actually doing what we want them to do, and that is protecting the patient from having subsequent and serious heart disease," Brown said.
Manufacturer questions study
There are many types of calcium channel blockers, including Cardizem and Procardia. A spokesman for Zeneca Pharmaceuticals, which makes a calcium channel blocker known as Sular, claims the study set out to investigate the effect of calcium channel blockers on diabetes, and that the heart disease-related findings are suspect.
"The study wasn't designed to look specifically at that," says Dr. Howard Hutchinson of Zeneca. "So ... one has to look at (that result) in the context of being an unplanned finding."
Questions also were raised about calcium channel blockers in another study this week which found they may cause an increased risk of depression and suicide.
But Brown points out that the study "does not in any way prove that calcium channel blockers in any way cause depression or suicide. It simply raises the possibility."
The American Heart Association says those who are taking calcium channel blockers should continue to do so rather than putting their health in jeopardy.
It also suggests that those taking calcium channel blockers consult with their doctor about whether to continue with the medication or switch to something else.