Heart failure drug may treat cardiac condition linked to COVID-19, study says

Ivabradine, a drug used for heart failure, improved symptoms associated with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, a condition that causes rapid heart rate and lightheadedness, according to research published Feb. 15 in Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The condition has surfaced in some COVID-19 long-haulers, or those who experience lasting symptoms after the infection has cleared.

Researchers recruited 22 participants from cardiology clinics at UC San Diego Health from 2018-20. Participants were placed into two groups and given either ivabradine or a placebo for one month. After one month, all participants underwent a one-week washout period during which they did not take the drug or placebo. Participants who originally received ivabradine were then given the placebo and vice versa for another month. 

Prior to the study, POTS patients had elevated heart rates between 100 to 115 beats per minute. Ivabradine was linked to a significant decreased standing heart rate of about 77 beats per minute compared to the placebo group. The study also found quality of life measure improvements using a health survey. No significant side effects were observed. 

"In our contemporary practice, we are seeing patients who have previously been infected with COVID-19 present with symptoms consistent with POTS," said Jonathan Hsu, MD, study author and cardiologist at UC San Diego Health. "Given the similarities, this study leads to the question whether therapy with ivabradine may help patients who experience similar symptoms after a COVID-19 infection, and provide an important area for future study as well." 

Researchers also said they hope the drug, currently FDA approved for the treatment of heart failure, will be considered as a potential treatment option for those with a POTS diagnosis. 

The study disclosed one of its authors worked as a consultant for Amgen, which provided part of the study's funding.

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