Drug Combo Saves The Heart

It's estimated that about one million Americans have heart attacks every year. While more than half survive, not all leave the hospital with the drugs they need to help keep them alive. But now a new study shows four inexpensive pills can make a big difference for heart patients.

Dick Croake is recovering from a heart procedure that cleared a 90 percent blocked artery.

"The physician who did the procedure said, 'If you hadn't come in, something bad would have happened.'"

To prevent a heart attack, Dick is taking a quartet of drugs.

"I feel a bit like a chemical broth at the moment."

Cardiologist Debabrata Mukherjee says it's a smart step.

"There are four classes of drugs that are currently recommended in all patients that present to the hospital either with worsening chest pain or with a heart attack."

Those drugs are:

  • Ace Inhibitors to lower blood pressure
  • Statins to lower cholesterol
  • Anti-Platelets, which include Aspirin and Plavix
  • Beta-Blockers, which lower blood pressure, but have other benefits too.

"All four should be started at once, rather than individually one at a time," Mukherjee said.

Doctors have known that each of the drugs is important for some time, but only recently did they learn the cumulative effect of taking all four drugs. A new study shows taking all four lowers the risk of death more than 90 percent after six months.

The American Heart Association recommends the drugs for heart patients, but that doesn't always happen.

"There is still a gap between optimal care of patients and what is recommended in the guidelines."

Dr. Mukherjee says heart patients should ask their own doctors about the drugs.

Dick says by taking all the recommended drugs, he feels safer.

"I feel guardedly optimistic. I said to my wife this morning, 'It is great to be alive.'"

And he's enjoying every moment, focusing more on living and less on his heart.

Even without insurance, the drugs should cost no more than $50 a month. In addition to being recommended for patients with a history of heart disease, they are also recommended for prevention of a second heart attack.