Doctors hail LCZ696 , a new drug for heart failure

Yet-unnamed drug likely to be included in new treatment guidelines

A drug that has yet to hit the market, and does not even have a proper name, is likely to be included in Singapore's newest heart failure treatment guidelines.

Cardiologists revising the guidelines, which are for all doctors, are in favour of including LCZ696 because of its impressive performance in a clinical trial.

The guidelines are revised every four to five years, and the latest set is expected by the end of the year.

Results of a large clinical trial, presented at the European Cardiology Congress over the weekend, show LCZ696 more than doubled survival rates compared with the best treatments available today. It also reduced hospitalisation by 21 per cent.

The congress is the leading meeting for heart professionals. This year's event - held in Spain - was attended by 30,000 delegates.

Patients who tried the drug not only felt better, but were also able to do more.

Associate Professor Carolyn Lam of the National University Heart Centre said: "There's just no doubt: It's a paradigm shift. It's better than the current gold standard, and not just by a little bit."

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis plans to file for its commercial use in the United States by the end of the year and in Europe next year.

An application to the Health Sciences Authority will come shortly after. But even if approval is fast-tracked, the drug would not be available in Singapore till the latter part of next year.

Nonetheless, Dr Kenneth Ng, a cardiologist in private practice, supported its inclusion. Dr Ng is on the guidelines committee.

Another committee member, Dr David See, said he would favour recommending its use for local patients.

Doctors pointed to the clinical trial results for their enthusiasm.

Dr Ng said that although the results are from only one trial, it involved more than 8,000 patients - including 32 from Singapore - who were followed for an average of 27 months.

The failure of the heart to work properly - which can be caused by heart attacks, heart disease and high blood pressure, for instance - affects Asians at a younger age than Americans and Europeans, while many are still leading productive lives.

The average age for heart failure in the US is 70. In Europe, it is 72, but in Singapore and the rest of Asia, it is 60.

Dr See, director of heart failure at the National Heart Centre, pointed out that a major problem with such failure patients is their frequent hospitalisations. They account for about 6,000 admissions a year, and generally stay for four to five days.

The clinical trial also found that for every 36 patients treated, the need for hospitalisation drops by one.

There are different types of heart failure, and more than half the heart failure patients in Singapore could benefit from this drug.