Effect of drug therapy on survival in chronic congestive heart failure
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A review of the current evidence on the effects of various agents on survival among patients with congestive heart failure (CHF) suggests that angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors probably offer the greatest potential for benefit. Trials undertaken before the Cooperative North Scandinavian Enalapril Survival Study (CONSENSUS) revealed favorable trends among patients in New York Heart Association functional classes II to IV who received angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors. Data from CONSENSUS clearly demonstrate that enalapril reduces mortality rates among patients in New York Heart Association class IV, but conclusions regarding effects in patients with mild or moderate CHF must await the results of future studies. In contrast, the large data base on alpha-adrenergic blockers suggests that these drugs are not likely to improve survival. Information on inotropic agents is sparse, but it is possible that these drugs may not improve survival and, in fact, may have a harmful effect. Mortality data on CHF patients treated with beta blockers and calcium channel blockers are likewise limited; conclusions concerning effects on survival must be postponed until further studies are conducted. Many of the investigations undertaken thus far to examine survival in patients with CHF have been small and of short duration, so any comparisons of the effects of various drugs must be interpreted with caution.
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