Medications Used to Treat Heart Failure

Updated:Sep 28,2016

This information is provided at the sole discretion of the American Heart Association and the guidance of our science staff and volunteers and is not a part of the Rise Above Heart Failure initiative.

Research studies of heart failure have shown that several classes of drugs (medications) have shown to be the best for the treatment of heart failure.  Heart failure patients may need multiple medications. Each one treats a different symptom or contributing factor. Each medication comes with its own instructions and rules. They can't do their job if you don't take them correctly. You and your caregivers should work with your healthcare team to understand the medications and how they should be taken; when, how often and in what amounts. It's important to discuss all of the drugs you take with your doctor (or other healthcare provider) and understand their desired effects and possible side effects. Remember that your healthcare provider and pharmacist are your best sources of information. Don't hesitate to ask them questions about your medicines. 

It is critically important that persons with heart failure take their medications as directed by their healthcare provider (doctor, nurse practitioner, etc) to optimize the benefits of these drugs in the treatment of heart failure. By following prescribed directions, you have the best opportunity to benefit from heart failure treatment recommendations. The use of these drugs has been shown to save lives, prolong life and improve the heart’s function. 

The following list gives you a quick look at many typical medications to treat heart failure at different stages. Your prescription may have a different name from the ones listed here. Brand names commonly available in the U.S. are shown in parentheses after the generic name for each drug.

*Some of the major types of commonly prescribed heart failure medications are summarized in this section. For your information and reference, we have included generic names as well as major trade names to help you identify what you may be taking; however, the AHA is not recommending or endorsing any specific products. If your prescription medication isn't on this list, remember that your healthcare provider and pharmacist are your best sources of information. It's important to discuss all of the drugs you take with your doctor and understand their desired effects and possible side effects. Never stop taking a medication and never change your dose or frequency without first consulting your doctor.

Use this list to gain a quick understanding of the common heart failure medications you may be prescribed. If you need more help understanding what medication you're taking and why you're taking it, talk to your doctor.

Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors

Commonly prescribed include:

  • Captopril (Capoten)
  • Enalapril (Vasotec)
  • Fosinopril (Monopril)
  • Lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril)
  • Perindopril (Aceon)
  • Quinapril (Accupril)
  • Ramipril (Altace)
  • Trandolapril (Mavik)

Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (or Inhibitors)
(Also known as ARBs or Angiotensin-2 Receptor Antagonists)

Commonly prescribed include:

  • Candesartan (Atacand)
  • Losartan (Cozaar)
  • Valsartan (Diovan)

Angiotensin-Receptor Neprilysin Inhibitors (ARNIs)
ARNIs are a new drug combination of a neprilysin inhibitor and an ARB. 

  • Sacubitril/valsartan
If Channel Blocker (or inhibitor) 
This drug class reduces the heart rate, similar to another class of drugs called beta blockers.
  • Ivabradine (Corlanor)

Beta Blockers
(Also known as Beta-Adrenergic Blocking Agents)

Commonly prescribed include:

  • Bisoprolol (Zebeta)
  • Metoprolol succinate (Toprol XL)
  • Carvedilol (Coreg)
  • Carvedilol CR (Coreg CR)Toprol XL

Aldosterone Antagonists

Commonly prescribed include:

  • Spironolactone (Aldactone)
  • Eplerenone (Inspra)

Hydralazine and isosorbide dinitrate (specifically benefits African Americans with heart failure)

Commonly prescribed:

  • Hydralazine and isosorbide initrate (combination drug) - (Bidil)

(Also known as Water Pills)

 Commonly prescribed include:

  • Furosemide (Lasix)
  • Bumetanide (Bumex)
  • Torsemide (Demadex)
  • Chlorothiazide (Diuril)
  • Amiloride (Midamor Chlorthalidone (Hygroton)
  • Hydro-chlorothiazide (Esidrix, Hydrodiuril)
  • Indapamide (Lozol)
  • Metolazone (Zaroxolyn)
  • Triamterene (Dyrenium)
What this type of medication does:

Causes the body to rid itself of excess fluids and sodium through urination. Helps to relieve the heart's workload. Also decreases the buildup of fluid in the lungs and other parts of the body, such as the ankles and legs. Different diuretics remove fluid at varied rates and through different methods.

Other possible medications that might be prescribed

Your doctor may also prescribe other less commonly used drugs depending on your additional health problems.  These drugs include:

  • Anticoagulants (blood thinners)
    These drugs may be prescribed if you are a heart failure patient with atrial fibrillation, or have another problem with your heart where adding this drug is indicated. Anticoagulants are not used to treat heart failure without the presence of atrial fibrillation.
  • Cholesterol lowering drugs (statins)
    Your doctor may prescribe this class of medication if you have high cholesterol or have had a heart attack in the past. This class of drugs is not used to treat heart failure, but other conditions as indicated.
  • Digoxin
    There are some heart failure patients who might be prescribed this drug as the doctor feels indicated. 

Additional medication information:
Find further descriptions of how these medications also affect cardiovascular diseases other than heart failure.      

Medicine Management

Keeping Track / Developing a System

Keeping track of your prescribed medications can be challenging — especially if you're taking several different medicines. Writing things down will make managing your medications a lot easier. Use our printable medicine tracker to stay organized. Also available in Spanish.

Lowering High Blood Pressure
By treating high blood pressure, you can help prevent a stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure and peripheral artery disease. Our printable blood pressure tracker will help you monitor your blood pressure and record suggestions from your doctor. 


This content was last reviewed May 2016


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