Anemia meds didn't work as hoped in heart attack study

Animal studies suggested that the anemia drugs sold by Amgen and Johnson & Johnson might reduce damage in patients who had heart attacks. But new research in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that the drugs didn't reduce damage at all; in fact, they may increase a patient's odds of another heart attack or death.

In the new study, heart attack patients were given angioplasties to open up their clogged arteries, Bloomberg reports. Within four hours of the procedure, the patients received an injection of either placebo or of erythropoeietin alfa, sold by Amgen under the Epogen brand name and by J&J as Procrit.

Later, doctors took MRIs to measure heart damage. They saw no difference in the amount of damage. Five patients given the drug died, formed new blood clots, had strokes or a second heart attack. No placebo patient suffered those complications. "The bottom line is that while there was a lot of excitement based on animal studies, now that we've tested it, we find it actually is not helpful and may in some cases be detrimental," said Samer Najjar, the study's lead author.

- read the Bloomberg coverage