Effect of beta-adrenergic blockade with carvedilol on cachexia in severe chronic heart failure: results from the COPERNICUS trial

Andrew L. Clark, Andrew J S Coats, Henry Krum, Hugo A. Katus, Paul Mohacsi, Damien Salekin, Melissa K. Schultz, Milton Packer, Stefan D. Anker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Background: Cardiac cachexia frequently accompanies the progression of heart failure despite the use of effective therapies for left ventricular dysfunction. Activation of the sympathetic nervous system has been implicated in the pathogenesis of weight loss, but the effects of sympathetic antagonism on cachexia are not well defined. Methods: We prospectively evaluated changes in body weight in 2289 patients with heart failure who had dyspnoea at rest or on minimal exertion and a left ventricular ejection fraction <25%. Patients were randomly assigned (double-blind) to receive either placebo (n = 1133) or carvedilol (n = 1156) and were followed for the occurrence of major clinical events for up to 29 months (COPERNICUS trial). Patients were not enrolled if they had signs of clinically significant fluid retention due to heart failure. Results: Patients in the carvedilol group were 33% less likely than patients in the placebo group to experience a further significant loss of weight (>6%) (95% confidence interval: 14–48%, P = 0.002) and were 37% more likely to experience a significant gain in weight (≥5%) (95% confidence interval: 12–66%, P = 0.002). Carvedilol's ability to prevent weight loss was most marked in patients with increased body mass index at baseline, whereas its ability to promote weight gain was most marked in patients with decreased body mass index at baseline. Increases in weight were not accompanied by evidence of fluid retention. Baseline values for body mass index and change in body weight were significant predictors of survival regardless of treatment. Conclusions: Carvedilol attenuated the development and promoted a partial reversal of cachexia in patients with severe chronic heart failure, supporting a role for prolonged sympathetic activation in the genesis of weight loss.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)549-556
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2017


  • COPERNICUS trial
  • Cardiac cachexia
  • Carvedilol
  • Heart failure
  • Sympathetic nervous system
  • Weight loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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