Researchers have figured out 511,000 Australians live with heart failure and each year 67,000 new cases are diagnosed. They estimate it costs the healthcare system more than $5 billion every year.

The study predicts that by the time 2025 rolls around 650,000 of us will suffer heart failure, an increase of almost 30 per cent.

Professor Simon Stewart, director of the Mary MacKillop Institute of Health Research, led the research and told SBS News this is a conservative estimate.

“The scary part for us is that this is just modelling based on the ageing of the Australian
population and the growth of the Australian population,” he said.

It doesn’t take into account any other risk factors like diabetes and obesity.

“Baby boomers who have entered old age now with these risk factors and untreated hypertension, which is another big thing, that is going to fuel this future epidemic of heart failure unfortunately,” Professor Stewart said.


‘Breakthrough’ medicine now on PBS

To help combat the problem the Federal Government has subsidised the cost of a new drug called Entresto which the makers are calling a “breakthrough heart failure medicine”.

Patients used to have to fork out around $260 a month for the treatment which worked out to about $3,000 a year. It’s now part of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme which means it costs pensioners around $6 a month and non-pensioners roughly $40.

Andrew Sindone, an Australian heart failure specialist, told SBS News the drug has significant benefits.

“This medication showed a 16 per cent reduction in chance of dying, a 21 per cent reduction of people ending up in hospital, and people felt better. So that really fulfills all of our goals,” Mr Sindone said.



What is heart failure?

According to Health Direct heart failure is a serious condition where the heart has difficulty pumping enough blood around the body.

It happens when the heart muscle has become too weak, or too stiff, to pump blood through the body as effectively as normal.

Some of the main symptoms of heart failure include:

  • Breathlessness or shortness of breath
  • Tiredness and dizziness
  • Swollen legs, ankles and feet.

These symptoms can develop quickly (known as acute heart failure) but they usually develop gradually, over time (known as chronic heart failure).

What patients say about Entresto

Heart failure patient Barry Cahir spent weeks in intensive care after collapsing with shortness of breath. He was diagnosed with chronic heart failure and told Nine News he thought he was going to die.

The 75-year-old has since started taking Entresto and says it has made a big difference to him.

“It’s a strange feeling … it’s another chance at life. I feel really really well to tell you the truth and so many people come up to me and say… you look good,” Mr Cahir said.

The drug isn’t a cure for heart failure. However, trials have proven it does help reduce patients risk of death and hospitalisation. It has been labelled as one of the most significant breakthroughs in heart failure treatment in a decade.