HARI SREENIVASAN: As we reported yesterday, an experimental heart drug developed by the Swiss pharmaceutical company, Novartis, shows promising results.
The new drug currently referred to by its codename “L C Z 696″ may change the course of treatment and prolong the lives of patients suffering from heart failure.
The results of the study on the new drug are being presented this weekend in Spain at an international cardiology conference and were also published yesterday by The New England Journal of Medicine.
For some insight, we’re joined via Skype from Windham, New Hampshire by Clyde Yancy, he’s a professor of medicine and chief of cardiology at Northwestern University.
So, Professor Yancy, there are millions of people around the world, who suffer from heart disease and heart failure, what’s so different about this drug and why does it work better than what’s available today?
CLYDE YANCY: Well Hari, thanks for your interest. Those millions of people you talked about should be elated because there is a new therapy now.
It’s not just an additional therapy, but it is a significant improvement over what we already had. This really is better and brings a lot of hope to a lot of people.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And without getting too far into the details of the science, what’s it doing to the heart to make it more efficient or less prone to fail?
CLYDE YANCY: So that’s a great question. It takes what we originally were doing, which was to use drugs to help make the heart smaller and stronger, but then takes it a step further.
So not only does it help to make the heart smaller and stronger, but it reverses or minimizes some of the scar that happens over time.
By combining these two effects together, it really has a profound influence, a new benefit on living longer and feeling better.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Now would this replace the type of treatments we have today? I mean we’re familiar with a category of drugs called ace inhibitors and beta blockers.
CLYDE YANCY: So Hari that’s why there’s so much excitement. Rarely are we able to change the foundation of how we do things.
This changes the foundation, which means it raises the bar for all patients. We do think that many patients will have their ace inhibitors replaced by this new ”L C Z” drug once it’s developed further.
But it’s also important to realize that the background therapy still includes drugs that we know make a big difference like beta-blockers, like MRA’s, so lots of reason for enthusiasm here.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So while this one company has kind of a lead here, how long until this category of drugs gets on the markets and on store shelves so to speak, where doctors can write a prescription for them in the U.S.?
CLYDE YANCY: I really think we can go beyond which company has what proprietary input here and realize that this really is a breakthrough for patients and so it means we have to change the dynamic here.
We have to look to the F.D.A., work with the F.D.A. and say how can we bring this development to the table, sooner and better than we’ve ever done before.
I’m excited about the possibility of helping to galvanize interest and get this drug to patients as soon as possible.
HARI SREENIVASAN: You know some people are concerned that perhaps it’s too quick.
I’m mean I don’t know what the medical ethics of it is when you have this kind of medical efficacy and want to get this drug out there and help more people, but are there side effects that we don’t know about, particular populations that haven’t been studied enough?
CLYDE YANCY: You know what Hari, the answer is yes and yes, but it doesn’t drop our enthusiasm or quell our interests.
Here’s the story, we need to move forward with something for heart failure, that’s pretty clear.
Yes, there are patients that we wish we knew more about, like African American patients, like more U.S.-based patients, like more patients with more advanced heart failure, but nevertheless, there are ways used in contemporary research methodologies that we can get those questions answered, while still bringing this to the table.
This really isn’t about a company. This is about a brand new approach, a brand new way to take care of people that have a pretty compelling disease.
If the disease wasn’t so compelling, sure we could slow down, take some more time, get some more data.
But we’ve got a disease, where people are coming up short despite getting everything that we have available now.
We really should think about bringing this forward as soon as we can.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright, Clyde Yancy of Northwest University, thanks so much for your time.
CLYDE YANCY: Thank you for your interest, I appreciate it.