Diabetes drug shows success for heart failure patients: Manitoba study

A drug initially meant for treating diabetes is proving to be effective in helping heart failure patients lead longer and healthier lives, according to a recently published study from a Manitoba doctor.

St. Boniface Hospital cardiologist Dr. Shelley Zieroth enrolled patients in a phase three clinical trial called The Emperor-Preserved Trial which looked at the drug called Empagliflozin.

“It’s really quite a remarkable journey for this class of drugs,” Zieroth said. “Empagliflozin is known as an SGLT2 inhibitor which was originally tested in and proven to be beneficial as a blood glucose-lowering agent in individuals with type 2 diabetes.”

What this study did was test the drug in heart failure patients with preserved injection fraction. Dr. Zieroth described this as a type of heart failure where the pumping function of the heart is fine but the heart itself is very stiff.

“Until now, there really has been no effective therapies to improve long-term outcomes,” she said.

The findings from this study show that Empagliflozin resulted in a 21 per cent relative risk reduction in cardiovascular death or hospitalization for heart failure. Dr. Zieroth called this trial a landmark for both clinicians and patients.

“We know hospitalization for heart failure is a significant burden on the health-care system,” Zieroth said. “In fact, in patients over 65, it’s one of the top three causes of hospitalization.”

She said hospitalizations are where most of the money is spent on heart failure care, not the medications.

“Anything we can do to reduce heart failure hospitalizations thus has a positive impact on the health care system but also improves patient outcomes.”

The next step is to apply to Health Canada for rapid approval of this drug for this patient group.