The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications as recommended by your doctor, or according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your doctor.

The following medications may be used to treat congestive heart failure. The generic drug name is listed first, with a common brand name(s) in parentheses:

Prescription Medications

Diuretics

  • Hydrochlorothiazide (Hydrodiuril)
  • Chlorothiazide (Diuril)
  • Metolazone (Zaroxolyn)
  • Furosemide (Lasix)
  • Bumetanide (Bumex)
  • Triamterene (Dyrenium)
  • Spironolactone (Aldactone)
  • Torsemide
  • Indapamide
  • Polythiazide
  • Amiloride
  • Combination agents (Dyazide)

Aldosterone Receptor Blocker

  • Eplerenone (Inspra)

Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors)

  • Captopril (Capoten)
  • Enalapril (Vasotec)
  • Lisinopril (Zestril, Prinivil)
  • Benazepril (Lotensin)
  • Quinapril (Accupril)
  • Ramipril (Altace)
  • Fosinopril (Monopril)
  • Moexipril (Univasc)
  • Trandolapril
  • Perindopril

Vasodilators

  • Isosorbide dinitrate (isordil)
  • Nesiritide (Natrecor)
  • Hydralazine (Apresoline)
  • Nitrate drugs
  • Minoxidil

Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs)

  • Losartan (Cozaar)
  • Irbesartan (Avapro)
  • Valsartan (Diovan)
  • Candesartan
  • Eprosartan
  • Telmisartan
  • Olmesartan

Beta-Blockers

  • Metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol-XL)
  • Atenolol (Tenormin)
  • Carvedilol (Coreg)
  • Bisoprolol (Zebeta)
  • Propranolol
  • Sotalol
  • Pindolol
  • Penbutolol
  • Acebutolol
  • Timolol
  • Nadolol
  • Betaxolol

Digoxin

  • Digoxin (Lanoxin)
  • Digitoxin

Prescription Medications

Diuretics

Common names include:

Also called “water pills,” diuretics help promote excretion of water and sodium from the body. This reduces the amount of work the heart has to perform.

Possible general side effects include:

  • Altered potassium levels, which can cause muscle cramping and abnormal heart rhythms.
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness

Aldosterone Receptor Blocker

Common names include:

Aldosterone receptor blockers are generally used to treat hypertension . Inspra is the first drug in this class to receive additional FDA approval to treat patients who develop congestive heart failure following an acute heart attack . Patients who received Inspra, along with other appropriate treatment, had a lower risk of death.

Possible general side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Breast enlargement or tenderness

Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors)

Common names include:

ACE inhibitors prevent the body from creating angiotensin II, a substance in the blood that causes vessels to tighten and raises blood pressure. As a result, ACE inhibitors relax blood vessels, lower blood pressure, and ease the heart’s workload. A number of studies have shown that ACE inhibitors are beneficial in reducing symptoms and prolonging life in patients with CHF. These medications should be considered in all patients who have CHF. Talk with your doctor to see if an ACE inhibitor is right for you.

Possible general side effects include:

  • Cough and occasional rash
  • Altered sense of taste
  • Increased potassium levels, altered kidney function

Vasodilators

Common names include:

Vasodilators help dilate or enlarge blood vessels. People with CHF often have blood vessels that are constricted, which causes the heart to work harder pumping blood through the vessels. Vasodilators address this problem.

Possible general side effects include:

  • Sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Dizziness, fainting
  • Headache
  • Flushing
  • Racing heart or palpitations

Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs)

Common names include:

These are a newer class of medications similar to ACE inhibitors, but with a significantly lower frequency of cough as a side effect. The general side effects in angiotensin II receptor blockers were similar to that of placebos in most studies. Like ACE inhibitors, they may have very rare, but severe side effects. Doctors may prescribe this class of medicine for patients who cannot tolerate ACE inhibitors because of cough or other side effects. In selected groups of patients with severe CHF, ACE inhibitors may be used along with ARBs.

Beta-Blockers

Common names include:

Beta-blockers help slow the heart rate and reduce blood pressure. They are used for mild to moderate CHF and are often used in conjunction with other medications such as diuretics, ACE inhibitors, and digoxin. Ask your doctor if a beta-blocker is right for you.

Possible side effects:

  • Decreased sexual ability
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Decreased ability to participate in strenuous physical activity

Digoxin

Common names include:

Also known as digitalis, this medication increases the strength of the heart contractions, slows the heartbeat, and controls abnormal heart rhythms, such as atrial fibrillation.

Possible side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion

Special Considerations

Whenever you are taking a prescription medication, take the following precautions:

  • Take them as directed— not more, not less, not at a different time.
  • Do not stop taking them without consulting your doctor.
  • Don’t share them with anyone else.
  • Know what effects and side effects to expect, and report them to your doctor.
  • If you are taking more than one drug, even if it is over-the-counter, be sure to check with a doctor or pharmacist about drug interactions.
  • Plan ahead for refills so you don’t run out.