Health Watch -- Heart Disease and African Americans

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Heart disease hits the African-American community especially hard. It's the leading cause of death among African Americans and doctors have noted that this community often responds differently to drugs used to treat it. Now doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas have developed a treatment that dramatically decreases deaths due to heart failure in African Americans.

The patients took a drug called BiDil, which was a combination of hydralazine (hi-DRAL-uh-zeen) and isosorbide dinitrate (eye-so-SOR-bide die-NIE-trait). Both drugs are older and have been used to treat various heart conditions. Doctors specifically tested BiDil on African Americans because they often don't respond as well to other treatments and researchers wanted to see how well it worked among that narrow group.

The results of taking BiDil were so dramatic in clinical trials that researchers stopped the trial so that the new drug could be used on all participants. There was a 43-percent decrease in deaths from congestive heart failure after one year among patients taking the new treatment.


 
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Nov. 2004

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