A drug approved to treat chest pain is being tested as a potential treatment for ventricular arrhythmias, irregular heart rhythms that are associated with increased hospitalizations and death and for which there are limited treatment options for patients with heart disease. The new nationwide clinical trial, funded with a $10.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, is the first major study testing a new concept – blocking late sodium currents that govern key components of the electrical activity in the heart – to combat these deadly arrhythmias.
This approach represents a new avenue of therapy after two decades of no significant developments in innovative drug treatment of ventricular arrhythmias. The two principal investigators of the new study, Wojciech Zareba, M.D., Ph.D., and Arthur J. Moss, M.D., of the University of Rochester Medical Center, are world experts on the treatment of arrhythmias.
Patients at increased risk of particularly fast heart rhythms known as ventricular tachyarrhythmias have very low survival rates. The study drug, Ranexa® (ranolazine), has been tested in animals and in pilot clinical studies, and has shown anti-arrhythmic properties. The drug was also previously tested in patients with a heart condition known as Long QT syndrome (LQTS) – a rare hereditary syndrome which makes the heart susceptible to fatal arrhythmias – with favorable results.