Oct 03, 2013

    Exercise trumps drugs for stroke

    PHYSICAL activity may be as effective as drugs in treating heart disease, and should be included for comparison in the development of new medicine, according to a review published in the British Medical Journal yesterday.

    For patients with coronary heart disease or pre-diabetes, no statistically detectable differences were evident between those who exercised and those who received drug treatment, while exercise was more effective among patients recovering from a stroke, according to a review of 16 meta-analyses that included 305 studies involving 339,274 participants.

    The review was conducted by researchers at Harvard University and Stanford University.

    The review adds to evidence showing the benefits of non-medical approaches to disease, like behavioural and lifestyle changes.

    Given the cost of drug treatment, regulators should consider requiring pharmaceutical companies to include exercise as a comparator in clinical trials of new medicine, according to Dr Huseyin Naci of Harvard and Dr John Ioannidis of Stanford.

    "In cases where drug options provide only modest benefit, patients deserve to understand the relative impact that physical activity might have on their condition," the researchers wrote in the review.

    In the meantime, "exercise intervention considered as a viable alternative to, or, alongside, drug therapy".

    The definition of exercise and its frequency, intensity and duration varied across the list of studies included in the review, which limits the ability to generalise the findings to different forms of physical activity, said the authors, who received no funding for the review.