A drug commonly prescribed for people with high blood pressure and heart failure may also benefit those with other conditions that put them at higher risk for heart attacks and stroke. Researchers conducted a study among about 9,000 men and women from the Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation (HOPE) study. All were 55 or older and suffering from heart-related problems other than heart failure, such as ischemic heart disease, nondebilitating stroke, peripheral arterial disease, or diabetes.
Originally, subjects were randomly assigned to take the angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor ramipril (Altace), vitamin E, or a placebo to see if either the ACE-inhibitor or vitamin E would prevent heart attacks or stroke. Vitamin E did not have any effect on heart attack or stroke rates, but ramipril showed a protective effect. Researchers took the study one step further to see if the drug would protect against two other conditions -- sudden cardiac death and nonfatal cardiac arrest. Compared to patients on the placebo, those taking ramipril were less likely to develop either condition: 3.3 percent vs. 4.2 percent. The participants were followed for about four and a half years.
Although ramipril was used exclusively in the study, researchers say they believe that other ACE-inhibitors would probably elicit similar results.