New drug hope for heart patients

Zinhle Mapumulo

Zinhle Mapumulo

A drug with minimal side effects will now be made available to public health-care centres that normally treat poor patients with cardiovascular ailments.

For decades doctors have trusted the use of ramipril drugs as a way of prolonging the lives of those affected by cardiovascular-related diseases.

The problem with ramipril has always been its side effects, which include uncontrollable coughing.

Yesterday Boehringer Ingelheim, a group of pharmaceutical companies, said this was about to change.

"A new proven drug called telmisartan with less side effects than ramipril is now available. Though it has been around for more than seven years, it was not medically proven then that it has less side effects. People should not worry about the effectiveness of telmisartan because it works the same as ramipril," said James Ker, a professor who was among the people involved in the trials to measure the effectiveness of telmisartan.

He said this was a breakthrough in the medical field.

"For the past five we have been trying to find treatment that will not only prolong the life of those suffering from cardiovascular-related diseases effectively, but that does not have the side effects of ramipril.

"Finally we have found it and it is thanks to the Ontarget trial conducted on 25620 high-risk cardiovascular patients in 41 countries, including South Africa," said Ker.

Ontarget trial data showed that telmisartan is associated with a higher treatment compliance. More than 80percent of participants finished the trial.

Pinkie Sareli, a cardiologist at Mulbarton Clinic, said Ontarget was one of the few trials to have so many participants until the end. He said this shows the remarkable breakthrough that telmisartan is about to bring to the medical community.

Telmisartan is available free at public hospitals and for a minimal fee of R200 at private health-care facilities.

It is branded as Micardis in pharmacies.