Medications for many heart conditions are effective in reducing symptoms and improving survival with good quality of life. Whilst the medications are effective they may cause side effects, some of which reuire that the medication be discontinued or replaced with an alternative.

Why are there so many different medications?

Many different drugs are used to treat the different types of heart disease, but they all belong to a few main types or classes. The drugs within each class are similar, but they may have minor variations in the way they work. Doctors have a wide variety of drugs to choose from and can select the ones that best meets the needs of an individual person. Not all people with the same condition are treated with the same medication.

A single drug may have several different names. Each drug has one official name, called the generic name but it may also be prescribed under one or more trade names, or proprietary names. Occasionally two drugs are combined in one tablet and have a single trade name.

What do heartmedications do?

Mostdrugs used to treat heart conditions change how the heart or the circulation works. the majority of people with a heart condition will be prescribed medication. Drugs are also given to help control high blood pressure or to help lower cholesterol levels. Some drugs have more than one action on the heart and circualton and benefit more than one condition.

How often will I need to take medication?

Most drugs used to treat heart conditions need to be taken regularly, as your doctor prescribes. In most cases this means once or twice a day. However, some drugs needs to be taken when a symptom occurs such as with angina. It can be dangerous to stop taking your medication without medical advice. You should discuss with your doctor before you stop taking any medication that has been prescribed for you.

What about side effects?

Medications used to treat heart conditions are very safe and dangerous side effects are very rare. However, as with all tablets minor side effects can occur quite often. If you develop any new problems or new symptoms after starting a medication, it is important to tell your doctor about them. for more information about possible side effects you should talk to your pharmacist or look at the information that comes with each pack of medication. It is worth remembering that by law, the information included with each pack of medication has to list all the possible side effects.

How does my doctor choose the right medication?

Several differentmedications may be available for treating your heart condition. Your doctor will choose the one which is most likely to be effective for your condition and which is suitable and safe for you. However, people vary greatly in how they respond to individual drugs, so it is difficult to know exactly which medication will suit a particular person. If amedication does not suit someone, their doctor may want to prescribe an alternative medication.

Can I take alternative medicines?

By 'alternative medicines' we mean any supplement, remedy or herbal preparation that has not been prescribed by your doctor. Alternative medicines should not be seen as substitutes for conventional drugs, as very few have undergone rigorous research trials to establish how safe or effective they are. There can also be potential interactions with alternative medicines and other medications that you may be taking.

It is important that you talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any form of alternative medicine. For more information on alternative medicines, please see our information sheet Non-pharmaceutical medicines and supplements.