A US study has found that two drugs designed to prevent irregular heart beats can actually cause heart attacks in certain types of patient. The cardiac arrhythmia suppression trial (CAST) began in June 1987 but was halted in April 1989 when doctors found more deaths among patients treated with encainide and flecainide than in those receiving a placebo (dummy pill).(1) Based on the findings it has been estimated that, nationwide, 3000 people may have died prematurely after taking the drugs.(2)
In contrast, the animal research had indicated that encainide and flecainide were both safe and effective.(3)
1) CAST Investigators, New England Journal of Medicine, 1989, August 10, 406-412.
2) Dr. J.Morganroth reported in Washington Times, 1989, July 26.
3) Flecainide: B.Holmes & R.C.Heel, Drugs, 1985, vol.29, 1-33; encainide: D.C.Harrison et al, American Heart Journal, 1980, Vol.100, 1046-1054, and J.E.Byrne et al, Journal of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics, 1977, vol.200, 147-154.
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