Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Red light, green light on medications

Heart Beat

Red light, green light on medications

Warning on drugs for anemia. Anemia often accompanies heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases. A big question has been whether treating anemia improves these conditions. It may, but at the risk of increasing heart attacks. Three of the main drugs used to boost the body's production of red blood cells — Procrit, Epogen, and Aranesp — now carry warnings stating that their overuse can increase the chance of having a heart attack, aggravate cancer, and lead to premature death. Procrit, Epogen, and Aranesp are mainly used by people with anemia due to chemotherapy or kidney failure.

Heartburn drugs cleared of heart risk. In the spring of 2007, two small trials of Prilosec (omeprazole) and Nexium (esomeprazole) raised the possibility that long-term use of these popular medications increased the odds of having a heart attack. Not so, says the FDA. After reviewing 14 other studies, the agency concluded that Prilosec and Nexium don't harm the heart. Both drugs reduce the stomach's production of acid. They are mainly used to treat heartburn, acid reflux, and ulcers.

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