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New heart-failure drug could theoretically increase risk of Alzheimer's

Physicians should proceed cautiously in prescribing a new drug that improves symptoms of heart failure, according to a review in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

That's because it could theoretically increase a patient's risk of Alzheimer's disease and macular degeneration.

Caution about the drug, a combination of valsartan and sacubitril marketed as Entresto, is warranted given the results of animal studies, the authors wrote in a piece dated Dec. 7.

The authors included Arthur M. Feldman, executive dean of the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University; Julia A. Haller, ophthalmologist-in-chief at Wills Eye Institute; and Steven T. DeKosky of the University of Florida College of Medicine.

The drug alleviates heart failure by inhibiting an enzyme called neprilysin.

But that enzyme also helps degrade a substance called amyloid beta, which forms the plaques that are associated with Alzheimer's.  That substance also has been linked to macular degeneration.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has required drug maker Novartis to study cognitive risks in those taking the pills, but that data will not be available until 2022, the review authors wrote.

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