Comparison of the effects of losartan and enalapril on clinical status and exercise performance in patients with moderate or severe chronic heart failure

K Dickstein, P Chang, R Willenheimer, S Haunsø, J Remes, C Hall, J Kjekshus
Journal of the American College of Cardiology 1995, 26 (2): 438-45

OBJECTIVES: This study assessed the feasibility of an efficacy trial comparing angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibition and angiotensin II receptor antagonism in heart failure. Patients with moderate or severe heart failure whose condition had previously been stabilized by treatment with a converting enzyme inhibitor were randomly assigned to receive enalapril or losartan. The study was designed to detect any signs of clinical deterioration during double-blind treatment.

BACKGROUND: Losartan is a specific, nonpeptide angiotensin II receptor-1 antagonist with a vasodilator hemodynamic profile similar to that of converting enzyme inhibitors. Although therapy with specific receptor blockade has certain theoretic advantages over nonspecific converting enzyme inhibition, demonstration of a comparable therapeutic effect in patients with congestive heart failure will require a major effort comparing two active agents.

METHODS: One hundred sixty-six patients with stable heart failure in New York Heart Association functional class III or IV and an ejection fraction < or = 35% were included in a multicenter, double-blind, parallel, enalapril-controlled trial. After a 3-week stabilization period with optimal therapy, including digitalis, diuretic drugs and a converting enzyme inhibitor, patients were randomly assigned to 8 weeks of therapy with losartan, 25 mg/day (n = 52); losartan, 50 mg/day (n = 56); or enalapril, 20 mg/day (n = 58). Patients were assessed with frequent clinical and laboratory evaluation and exercise testing.

RESULTS: No significant differences between groups in terms of changes in exercise capacity (6-min walk test), clinical status (dyspnea-fatigue index), neurohumoral activation (norepinephrine, N-terminal atrial natriuretic factor), laboratory evaluation or incidence of adverse experience were observed.

CONCLUSIONS: The results suggest that losartan and enalapril are of comparable efficacy and tolerability in the short-term treatment of moderate or severe congestive heart failure. A trial designed to compare the efficacy, tolerability and effect on mortality of long-term angiotensin II receptor blockade with converting enzyme inhibition is both feasible and ethically responsible.

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