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A comparative analysis of the results from 4 trials of beta-blocker therapy for heart failure: BEST, CIBIS-II, MERIT-HF, and COPERNICUS.

Author(s): Domanski MJ, Krause-Steinrauf H, Massie BM, Deedwania P, Follmann D, Kovar D, Murray D, Oren R, Rosenberg Y, Young J, Zile M, Eichhorn E, BEST Investigators

Affiliation(s): Clinical Trials Group, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute/NIH, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Room 8146, Bethesda, MD 20892-7936, USA.

Publication date & source: 2003-10, J Card Fail., 9(5):354-63.

Publication type: Review

BACKGROUND: Recent large randomized, controlled trials (BEST [Beta-blocker Evaluation of Survival Trial], CIBIS-II [Cardiac Insufficiency Bisoprolol Trial II], COPERNICUS [Carvedilol Prospective Randomized Cumulative Survival Study], and MERIT-HF [Metoprolol Randomized Intervention Trial in Congestive Heart Failure]) have addressed the usefulness of beta-blockade in the treatment of advanced heart failure. CIBIS-II, COPERNICUS, and MERIT-HF have shown that beta-blocker treatment with bisoprolol, carvedilol, and metoprolol XL, respectively, reduce mortality in advanced heart failure patients, whereas BEST found a statistically nonsignificant trend toward reduced mortality with bucindolol. We conducted a post hoc analysis to determine whether the response to beta-blockade in BEST could be related to differences in the clinical and demographic characteristics of the study populations. We generated a sample from BEST to resemble the patient cohorts studied in CIBIS-II and MERIT-HF to find out whether the response to beta-blocker therapy was similar to that reported in the other trials. These findings are further compared with COPERNICUS, which entered patients with more severe heart failure. METHODS: To achieve conformity with the entry criteria for CIBIS-II and MERIT-HF, the BEST study population was adjusted to exclude patients with systolic blood pressure <100 mm Hg, heart rate <60 bpm, and age >80 years (exclusion criteria employed in those trials). The BEST comparison subgroup (BCG) was further modified to more closely reflect the racial demographics reported for patients enrolled in CIBIS-II and MERIT-HF. The association of beta-blocker therapy with overall survival and survival free of cardiac death, sudden cardiac death, and progressive pump failure in the BCG was assessed. RESULTS: In the BCG subgroup, bucindolol treatment was associated with significantly lower risk of death from all causes (hazard ratio (HR)=0.77 [95% CI=0.65, 0.92]), cardiovascular death (HR=0.71 [0.58, 0.86]), sudden death (HR=0.77 [0.59, 0.999]), and pump failure death (HR=0.64 [0.45, 0.91]). CONCLUSIONS: Although not excluding the possibility of differences resulting from chance alone or to different properties among beta-blockers, this study suggests the possibility that different heart failure population subgroups may have different responses to beta-blocker therapy.

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