Dapagliflozin’s benefits in patients with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction appeared quickly after treatment began, and patients who had been hospitalized for heart failure within the prior year got the biggest boost from the drug, according to secondary analyses of the more than 4,700-patient DAPA-HF trial.
Dapagliflozin’s significant reduction of the incidence of cardiovascular death or worsening heart failure became apparent in DAPA-HF within 28 days after patients started treatment, by which time those on the study drug had a 49% cut in this combined endpoint, compared with patients on placebo, David D. Berg, MD, and associates said in a recent report published in JAMA Cardiology.
Their analyses also showed that the absolute reduction linked with dapagliflozin treatment for this primary endpoint of the study (which classified worsening heart failure as either hospitalization for heart failure or an urgent visit because of heart failure that required intravenous therapy) was greatest, 10% during 2 years of follow-up, among the roughly one-quarter of enrolled patients who had been hospitalized for heart failure within 12 months of entering the study. Patients previously hospitalized for heart failure more than 12 months before they entered DAPA-HF had a 4% absolute cut in their primary-outcome events during the trial, and those who had never been hospitalized for heart failure had a 2% absolute benefit, compared with placebo, during 2 years of follow-up.
These findings were consistent with the timing of benefits for patients with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF) in recent studies of two other drugs from the same class, the sodium-glucose cotransporter (SGLT) inhibitors, including empagliflozin (Jardiance, which inhibits SGLT-2) in the EMPEROR-Reduced trial, and sotagliflozin (Zynquista, which inhibits both SGLT1 and -2) in the SOLOIST-WHF trial, noted Gregg C. Fonarow, MD, and Clyde W. Yancy, MD, in an editor’s note that accompanied the new report.
The new findings show “the opportunity to expeditiously implement this remarkable class of therapy for HFrEF is now compelling and deserves disruptive efforts to ensure comprehensive treatment and the best patient outcomes,” wrote Dr. Fonarow, a professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Dr. Yancy, a professor of medicine at Northwestern University, Chicago.
But despite these new findings, their exact meaning remains unclear in terms of when to start dapagliflozin (or a different drug from the same class), compared with the other drug classes that have proven highly effective in patients with HFrEF, and exactly how long after hospitalization for heart failure dapagliflozin can safely and effectively begin.
Data needed on starting an SGLT inhibitor soon after hospitalization in patients without diabetes
“DAPA-HF showed that, in patients with or without diabetes, an SGLT2 inhibitor reduced the risk of cardiovascular death or worsening heart failure in patients with stable HFrEF. SOLOIST-WHF looked strictly at patients with diabetes, and showed that a combined SGLT1 and SGLT2 inhibitor could reduce the risk of cardiovascular death or worsening heart failure in patients with recently decompensated heart failure,” Dr. Berg, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, noted in an interview. “What we don’t have is a trial focused exclusively on enrolling patients while hospitalized with acute heart failure, irrespective of whether they have diabetes, and testing the immediate clinical efficacy and safety of starting an SGLT2 inhibitor. That is what we are testing with the ongoing DAPA ACT HF-TIMI 68 trial.”
In addition, updated recommendations from the American College of Cardiology on initiating drug therapy in patients newly diagnosed with HFrEF that appeared in early 2021 promoted a sequence that starts most patients on sacubitril/valsartan (Entresto) and a beta-blocker, followed by a diuretic (when needed), a mineralocorticoid receptor agonist, and then an SGLT inhibitor. The recommendations note that starting a patient on all these drug classes could take 3-6 months.
“There are intense debates about the optimal sequence for introducing these therapies, and I don’t think we have solid data to suggest that one sequence is clearly better than another,” noted Dr. Berg. “A one-size-fits-all approach probably doesn’t make sense. For example, each of these therapies has a different set of effects on heart rate and blood pressure, and each has a unique side effect profile, so clinicians will often need to tailor the treatment approach to the patient. And, of course, cost is an important consideration. Although the optimal time to start an SGLT2 inhibitor remains uncertain, the results of our analysis suggest that waiting may result in preventable adverse heart failure events.”
DAPA-HF randomized 4,744 patients with HFrEF and in New York Heart Association functional class II-IV at 410 sites in 20 countries. The incidence of the primary, combined endpoint fell by 26% with dapagliflozin treatment, compared with placebo, during a median 18-month follow-up. Among the study cohort 27% of patients had been hospitalized for heart failure within a year of their entry, 20% had been hospitalized for heart failure more than 1 year before entry, and 53% had no history of a hospitalization for heart failure.
DAPA-HF was sponsored by AstraZeneca, the company that markets dapagliflozin (Farxiga). Dr. Berg has received research support through his institution from AstraZeneca. Dr. Fonarow has received personal fees from AstraZeneca and from numerous other companies. Dr. Yancy’s spouse works for Abbott Laboratories.