Background: Chronic heart failure (HF) is a prevalent world-wide. Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) are widely prescribed for chronic HF although their role is controversial.
Objectives: To assess the benefit and harm of ARBs compared with ACE inhibitors (ACEIs) or placebo on mortality, morbidity and withdrawals due to adverse effects in patients with symptomatic HF and left ventricular systolic dysfunction or preserved systolic function.
Search methods: Clinical trials were identified by searching CENTRAL, HTA, and DARE , (The Cochrane Library 2010 Issue 3), as well as MEDLINE (2002 to July 2010), and EMBASE (2002 to July 2010). Reference lists of retrieved articles and systematic reviews were checked for additional studies not identified by the electronic searches.
Selection criteria: Double blind randomised controlled trials in men and women of all ages who have symptomatic (NYHA Class II to IV) HF and: 1) left ventricular systolic dysfunction, defined as left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) ≤40%; or 2) preserved ejection fraction, defined as LVEF >40%.
Data collection and analysis: Two authors independently assessed risk of bias and extracted data from included studies.
Main results: Twenty two studies evaluated the effects of ARBs in 17,900 patients with a LVEF ≤40% (mean 2.2 years). ARBs did not reduce total mortality (RR 0.87 [95% CI 0.76, 1.00]) or total morbidity as measured by total hospitalisations (RR 0.94 [95% CI 0.88, 1.01]) compared with placebo.Total mortality (RR 1.05 [95% CI 0.91, 1.22]), total hospitalisations (RR 1.00 [95% CI 0.92, 1.08]), MI (RR 1.00 [95% CI 0.62, 1.63]), and stroke (RR 1.63 [0.77, 3.44]) did not differ between ARBs and ACEIs but withdrawals due to adverse effects were lower with ARBs (RR 0.63 [95% CI 0.52, 0.76]). Combinations of ARBs plus ACEIs increased the risk of withdrawals due to adverse effects (RR 1.34 [95% CI 1.19, 1.51]) but did not reduce total mortality or total hospital admissions versus ACEI alone.Two placebo-controlled studies evaluated ARBs in 7151 patients with a LVEF >40% (mean 3.7 years). ARBs did not reduce total mortality (RR 1.02 [95% CI 0.93, 1.12]) or total morbidity as measured by total hospitalisations (RR 1.00 [95% CI 0.97, 1.05]) compared with placebo. Withdrawals due to adverse effects were higher with ARBs versus placebo when all patients were pooled irrespective of LVEF (RR 1.06 [95% CI 1.01, 1.12]).
Authors' conclusions: In patients with symptomatic HF and systolic dysfunction or with preserved ejection fraction, ARBs compared to placebo or ACEIs do not reduce total mortality or morbidity. ARBs are better tolerated than ACEIs but do not appear to be as safe and well tolerated as placebo in terms of withdrawals due to adverse effects. Adding an ARB in combination with an ACEI does not reduce total mortality or total hospital admission but increases withdrawals due to adverse effects compared with ACEI alone.