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Int J Cardiol. 2016 Jan 15;203:543-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2015.10.240. Epub 2015 Nov 2.

Calcium sensitizers: What have we learned over the last 25 years?

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Critical Care Proprietary Products, Orion Pharma, Espoo, Finland. Electronic address:
Division of Clinical Physiology, Institute of Cardiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Debrecen, Hungary.
Department of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapy, University of Szeged, Hungary.


The use of inotropes for correcting hemodynamic dysfunction in patients with congestive heart failure has been described over many decades. Drugs such as cardiac glycosides, cathecolamines, phosphodiestherase inhibitors, and calcium sensitizers have been in turn proposed. However, the number of new chemical entities in this therapeutic field has been surprisingly low, and the current selection of drugs is limited. One of the paradigm shifts in the discovery for new inotropes was to focus on 'calcium sensitizers' instead of 'calcium mobilizers'. This was designed to lead to the development of safer inotropes, devoid of the complications that arise due to increased intracellular calcium levels. However, only three such calcium sensitizers have been fully developed over the latest 30 years. Moreover, two of these, levosimendan and pimobendan, have multiple molecular targets and other pharmacologic effects in addition to inotropy, such as peripheral vasodilation. More recently, omecamtiv mecarbil was described, which is believed to have a pure inotropy action that is devoid of pleiotropic effects. When the clinical data of these three calcium sensitizers are compared, it appears that the less pure inotropes have the cutting edge over the purer inotrope, due to additional effects during the treatment of a complex syndrome such as acute congested heart failure. This review aims to answer the question whether calcium sensitization per se is a sufficient strategy for bringing required clinical benefits to patients with heart failure. This review is dedicated to the memory of Heimo Haikala, a true and passionate innovator in this challenging field.


Cardiovascular pharmacology; Heart failure; Inodilators; Inotropes; Myosin; Troponin C

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