Carnitine is an important cofactor in the intermediary metabolism of the heart, and carnitine deficiency is associated with congestive heart failure. We therefore studied the effects of acute (IV bolus, 30 mg/kg body weight) and chronic administration (1.5 mg/d for 1 month) of propionyl-L-carnitine on hemodynamics, hormone levels, ventricular function, exercise capacity, and peak oxygen consumption in 30 patients with chronic congestive heart failure (NYHA II-III, mean EF 29.5 ± 7%) in a phase II, parallel, single-blind, randomized, and placebo-controlled study. Acute administration of propionyl-L-carnitine caused a significant reduction in pulmonary artery and pulmonary wedge pressures at both day 1 (P < 0.001) and day 30 (P < 0.05) of the study but no other hemodynamics changes. Hormone levels did not change following acute administration of the drug. Chronic administration of propionyl-L-carnitine increased peak oxygen consumption by 45% (from 16.0 ± 3 to 23.5 ± 2 mL/kg/min, P ± 0.001), exercise time by 21% (from 8.1 ± 0.5 to 9.8 ± 0.4 minutes, P < 0.01), and peak exercise heart rate by 12% (P < 0.01). These changes were concomitant with a reduction of pulmonary artery pressure. In the treated group, there was a slight, but significant (P < 0.01), reduction in left ventricular dimensions. Hemodynamics and hormones measured after 1 month of oral therapy remained unchanged, except for a fall in pulmonary artery pressures, with a nonsignificant trend towards a fall in filling pressures and plasma norepinephrine. The chronic changes in the propionyl-L-carnitine group were seen at 15 days of treatment, and no further changes in these parameters were seen at 1 month. We conclude that propionyl-L-carnitine increases exercise capacity and reduces ventricular size in patients with congestive heart failure. The drug has no significant effects on hemodynamics or neurohormone levels. The use of a single-blind design reduces the impact of the positive finding on exercise capacity.
- Congestive heart failure
- Treatment of heart failure