ACE Inhibitors in Heart Failure
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ACE inhibitors have significantly decreased cardiovascular mortality, myocardial infarction (MI), and hospitalizations for heart failure (HF) in patients with asymptomatic or symptomatic left ventricular (LV) systolic dysfunction. Furthermore, the extended 12-year study of the SOLVD (Studies Of Left Ventricular Dysfunction) Prevention and Treatment trials (X-SOLVD) demonstrated a significant benefit with a reduction of cumulative all-cause death compared with placebo (50.9% vs 56.4%) [hazard ratio (HR) 0.86; 95% CI 0.79, 0.93; p < 0.001]. The survival benefits and significant reductions in cardiovascular morbidity related to treatment with ACE inhibitors are likely achieved by titrating the dose of ACE inhibitors to the target dose achieved in clinical trials. Although the ATLAS (Assessment of Treatment with Lisinopril And Survival) study, which randomly allocated HF patients to low- or high-dose lisinopril, showed no significant difference between groups for the primary outcome of all-cause mortality (HR 0.92; 95% CI 0.82, 1.03), the predetermined secondary combined outcome of all-cause mortality and HF hospitalization was reduced by 15% for the patients receiving high-dose lisinopril compared with low-dose (p < 0.001) with a 24% reduction in HF hospitalization (p = 0.002). Despite the use of ACE inhibitors, blockade of the renin angiotensin aldosterone system (RAAS) remains incomplete, with evidence of continued production of angiotensin II by non-ACE-dependent pathways. The safety and potential benefits of angiotensin receptor antagonists (angiotensin receptor blockers [ARBs]) in patients with impaired systolic function have been assessed in moderate to large clinical trials. In patients with impaired LV systolic function and HF, combination therapy with ARBs with recommended HF therapy including ACE inhibitors in patients who remain symptomatic may be considered for its morbidity benefit. Based on the CHARM (Candesartan in Heart failure: Assessment of Reduction in Mortality and morbidity)-Added data, candesartan cilexetil in addition to standard HF therapy results in a further reduction of cardiovascular mortality. Close monitoring of renal function and serum potassium levels is needed in this setting. The VALIANT (VALsartan In Acute myocardial iNfarction Trial) results suggest that valsartan is as effective as captopril in patients following an acute MI with HF and/or LV systolic dysfunction and may be used as an alternative treatment in ACE inhibitor-intolerant patients. There was no survival benefit with valsartan-captopril combination compared with captopril alone in this trial. Despite these results, ACE inhibitors remain the first-choice therapeutic agent in post-MI patients, and ARBs can be used in patients with clear intolerance. Although the use of ACE inhibitors may be appealing in patients with HF and preserved LV systolic function, there is currently no evidence from large clinical trials to support this.
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