The Warfarin and Antiplatelet Therapy in Heart Failure Trial (WATCH): rationale, design, and baseline patient characteristics
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BACKGROUND: The role of anticoagulation in patients with chronic heart failure has long been an area of interest and controversy. Traditionally the goal of anticoagulation has been to prevent embolic events, but recent trials also demonstrated that oral anticoagulation also prevents vascular events in patients with prior myocardial infarction, who constitute the majority of heart failure patients. Although antiplatelet agents also reduce postinfarction vascular events, few data are available in heart failure patients, and some evidence suggests that aspirin may also have the potential to worsen heart failure morbidity and mortality, possibly by interfering with the effects of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors. Methods and results The Warfarin and Antiplatelet Therapy in Chronic Heart Failure (WATCH) trial was undertaken to determine the optimal antithrombotic agent for heart failure patients. WATCH was a prospective-randomized trial in which symptomatic heart failure patients in sinus rhythm with ejection fractions < or =35% taking angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (unless not tolerated) and diuretics were randomized to open-label warfarin (target International Normalized Ratio 2.5-3.0) or double-blind antiplatelet therapy with aspirin 162 mg or clopidogrel 75 mg. Two primary comparisons were specified: anticoagulation with warfarin versus antiplatelet therapy with aspirin and antiplatelet therapy with clopidogrel versus antiplatelet therapy with aspirin. The primary outcome is the composite of death from all causes, nonfatal myocardial infarction, and nonfatal stroke analyzed as time to first event using the intent-to-treat approach. The secondary endpoint was the broader composite of death from all causes, nonfatal myocardial infarction, non-fatal stroke, and hospitalizations for worsening heart failure, unstable angina pectoris, and systemic or pulmonary artery embolic events. Additional prespecified analyses include heart failure events, coronary events, and resource utilization. CONCLUSIONS: Although the trial was designed to enter 4500 patients, it was terminated 18 months prematurely in June 2003 by the VA Cooperative Study Program because of poor enrollment with a resulting reduction of its power to achieve its original objective. This manuscript describes the study rationale, protocol design, and the baseline characteristics of the 1587 patients who were entered into the study. The WATCH trial will help define the optimal approach to antithrombotic therapy in the contemporary management of patients with chronic heart failure resulting from left ventricular systolic dysfunction.
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