Study looks for people with dilated cardiomyopathy

6th May 2016

Researchers are looking for a group of people with dilated cardiomyopathy whose heart function has now recovered to normal.

They are seeking 50 volunteers who are still on their recommended heart medicines (such as beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors and water pills) and would be interested in taking part in a trial based at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London.

The research team wants to explore whether it is safe to stop heart failure medications in people who have recovered heart function. If the medicines can be stopped without the problem coming back, this suggests that the heart problem may have abated.  

 ‘In this study, the volunteers will have their heart medicines gradually withdrawn in a structured, and closely supervised way’, said clinical research fellow Dr Brian Halliday. “We will use MRI heart scans, exercise tests and blood tests to assess heart function. If there are any early signs of a reduction in heart function, medication will be restarted immediately,” he said.

To be eligible:

  1. Heart function must have been documented previously as reduced: left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) - a measure of the heart’s pumping power – must have been less than 40% and the heart enlarged
  2. Heart function must now have returned to normal: LVEF greater than 50% with a normal sized heart
  3. Volunteers must still be on treatment for their (recovered) cardiomyopathy

The volunteers will be closely monitored by a team of doctors and nurses over six months.  Initially only half of the volunteers will have their medication withdrawn.  The other half will remain on their usual treatment. After six months, if withdrawal of treatment has been successful, this half of patients will also be given the opportunity to undergo therapy withdrawal.

Chief investigator Dr Sanjay Prasad, a consultant cardiologist, said: “When patients recover their heart function they often ask if they can stop taking their medications.  Currently there is little research for doctors to base their answer on and no consensus about the best approach.  Patients, therefore, often get a variety of answers from different doctors.   Some doctors stop treatment as soon as there is recovery, while others advise their patients to continue on medication for many years.  We hope our study will answer this important question.

“We will go on to study factors that predict sustained heart function recovery including a person’s genetic make-up and specialised measurements from the MRI scans.  If the study demonstrates that it is safe and feasible for many patients to stop medication, we will go on to perform a larger study looking at the risks and benefits of withdrawing heart failure medications in the long-term.

The study has ethics and Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approval.  The MHRA is the government agency responsible for ensuring that medicines and medical devices work, and are acceptably safe. It is also supported by the British Heart Foundation.

If you would like to know more about the study, email Dr Halliday or call him on 0207 3528121 ext 2928.