Heart drug could be used to treat respiratory failure

Washington: A drug used to treat acute heart failure may be a possible treatment for patients facing respiratory failure too, according to researchers in the Netherlands.

Treatment with the calcium-sensitising drug levosimendan may be effective in improving muscle function in patients with respiratory muscle weakness, which often accompanies chronic diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure, their report said.

The drug increases the sensitivity of muscle tissue to calcium, thereby improving the muscle’s ability to contract.

“We found that the calcium sensitizer levosimendan improves the mechanical efficiency of the human diaphragm, suggesting a new, therapeutic approach to improve respiratory muscle function in patients with respiratory failure,” said Leo Heunks, M.D. PhD, who is a pulmonary and critical care physician at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

“Respiratory muscle weakness frequently occurs in patients with chronic diseases, and also in critically ill patients on the ventilator, making breathing more difficult and causing more severe illness and even death.

“To date, there is no specific drug treatment available to improve respiratory muscle function in patients with respiratory muscle failure,” he added.

The study was published online in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.


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