Researchers need more people with dilated cardiomyopathy whose heart function has recovered

26th January 2017

A study investigating whether it’s safe for some people with dilated cardiomyopathy and recovered heart function to stop taking their heart drugs is looking for more volunteers to take part.

Already 28 volunteers have come forward for the study at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London but another 22 are needed by July this year.

Eligibility includes still being on your recommended heart medications (such as beta-blockers, water pills and ACE inhibitors) and having heart function that has recovered to normal.

The research team wants to explore whether it is safe to stop heart 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 been cured.

“In this study, the volunteers will have their heart medicines gradually withdrawn in a structured, and closely supervised way’, said clinical research fellow Dr Brian Halliday.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:
• Your heart function must have been documented previously as reduced (left ventricular ejection fraction - a measure of the heart’s pumping power – must have been less than 40 per cent and the heart enlarged)
• Your heart function must now have returned to normal (greater than 50 per cent with a normal sized heart)
• You  must still be on treatment for your (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 Initially only half of the volunteers will have their medication withdrawn.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.