By Andrea Mongler
It’s 1982, and a man is having a heart attack. An ambulance rushes him to the emergency department, where he’s given a nitroglycerin tablet and a drug called nifedipine.
The treatment doesn’t seem to work, and the man’s heart sustains serious damage. An emergency physician delivers the news to the man’s family: “He might not survive the night. We’ll keep him comfortable, but there’s nothing else we can do.”
For years, this scene was a common one, played out again and again in emergency departments across the nation. Physicians did their best to care for heart attack patients—but their best too often wasn’t enough. That’s because nifedipine and other drugs used at the time simply weren’t effective.