Common cardiovascular disease treatment found ineffective

For some time, medical experts have relied on a commonly used marker to treat a patient’s risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke. New research recently published in the British Medical Journal by The George Institute for Global Health has clearly shown that this widely used treatment in people with kidney disease is not effective.

The commonly used marker is a patient’s homocysteine level, which rises in certain medical conditions, in particular in those more likely to suffer a cardiovascular event. To treat these high levels, practitioners administer folic acid and/or vitamin B supplements, which have been proven effective in reducing homocysteine.

“It’s true that homocysteine levels are reduced by folic acid, with or without vitamin B, but our analysis showed no impact on the rates of heart attacks, strokes or cardiovascular death among patients with kidney disease”, said lead author and Senior Research Fellow at The George Institute Dr Meg Jardine.

Researchers analysed a number of existing international trials including more than 10,000 patients with kidney disease. The large number of patients included in the meta-analysis has helped clarify this issue for practitioners around the world. The analysis also included the full range of kidney disease patients – those with chronic kidney disease, patients on dialysis and transplant patients.

“People living with kidney disease are at increased risk of stroke and heart attack, compared to the general population. We must look at ways to clarify the best program of treatments to reduce this risk. Our research has shown that folic acid treatment should not be used for the prevention of cardiovascular events in people with kidney disease,”

“Kidney patients already have a high drug burden in order to manage their condition. If we can simplify their treatments by removing unnecessary medications, we will make life easier for them and reduce costs, allowing patients and physicians to focus on treatments with proven benefits”, added Dr Jardine.

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