European Respiratory Review vol:18 issue:114 pages:253-259
The present review aims to examine the effect of specific drugs on long-term outcome of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), to critically review the available data, and to derive useful information for daily patient care. PAH is an intrinsic disease of the pulmonary circulation with a malignant evolution as a consequence of progressive right heart failure. Without specific therapy, median survival is only 2.8 yrs. The intravenous prostacyclin analogue epoprostenol is the only treatment with a demonstrated effect on survival, observed during a single 12-week randomised placebo-controlled trial. Three long-term observational studies have also shown that median survival is raised above 6 yrs with this therapy. Subcutaneous treprostinil appears to have similar beneficial effects on survival, as reported in two long-term observational studies. This is not the case for inhaled iloprost, as shown in one study in which a high proportion of patients needed the addition of, or the switch to, another therapy. Among the oral agents, long-term data have only been published for bosentan. The three studies including patients from expert centres also showed very good survival data, but again with a broad use of combination therapy. In less expert hands, with limited access to more complex therapies, reported survival seems much worse. In these studies, baseline New York Heart Association class and 6-min walk distance are repeatedly shown to be important predictors of survival. Finally, there is emerging data that prostanoid therapy results in a tendency to normalise C-reactive protein levels, a factor associated with improved long-term outcomes.