OBJECTIVE--To compare the effects of felodipine and placebo in patients with New York Heart Association functional class II or III and stable congestive heart failure despite treatment with an angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor, diuretic, or digoxin, or any combination of these three drugs. PATIENTS AND DESIGN--252 patients were randomised in a double blind, parallel group study after a 2-4 week placebo run-in to oral treatment with either felodipine extended release formulation or placebo 2.5-10 mg twice daily given in addition to existing background medication for a further 12 weeks. METHODS--Patients aged 18-75 years of either sex with chronic congestive heart failure due to ischaemic heart disease, hypertensive heart disease, or dilated cardiomyopathy with or without secondary mitral insufficiency that was stable during the preceding two months were included in the study. Treadmill exercise tests according to the modified Naughton protocol were performed at baseline, and after six, 11, and 12 weeks of treatment. Signs and symptoms of heart failure were assessed at every visit. Physical examination was performed and left ventricular ejection fraction measured at baseline and after 12 weeks. RESULTS--Mean (SD) baseline exercise test times increased from 434 (162) s and 480 (157) s for felodipine and placebo groups respectively to 541 (217) s and 591 (218) s at 12 weeks or the last visit. The change in exercise from baseline to last visit was 107 (141) s for patients given felodipine and 112 (128) s for those given placebo (P > 0.20). There was also no difference between treatments with respect to the other efficacy variables. There were few deaths in the study (felodipine n = 3, placebo n = 2). More patients who received felodipine were withdrawn from treatment (n = 29) than those who received placebo (n = 17). The most common adverse events of the 54 and 28 cited as reasons for withdrawal in the felodipine and placebo groups respectively were increased need for non-study heart failure treatment (n = 10; 8%)--that is, starting new medication or changes in the dosage of existing treatment for patients given felodipine, and nausea (n = 4; 3%) for those given placebo. Patients withdrawn from the study due to increased need for non-study heart failure treatment rapidly stabilised and recovered. CONCLUSION--Felodipine has not been shown to be of benefit in patients with mild to moderate heart failure.
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