Conference Coverage

Empagliflozin rapidly improves acute heart failure symptoms in hospitalized patients


AT ACC 2022

– Treatment of patients acutely hospitalized for heart failure with the SGLT2 inhibitor empagliflozin led to a rapid incremental increase in patient well-being, compared with control patients who received placebo, that appeared after 2 weeks on treatment in a secondary analysis from 530 randomized patients in the EMPULSE trial.

To Mikhail N. Kosiborod, MD, a coinvestigator for EMPULSE who presented new analysis at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology, the message from the quick response of acutely hospitalized patients to empagliflozin was clear: “Use these medications, SGLT2 [sodium-glucose cotransporter 2] inhibitors, as early as possible. We’ve seen with other medications that if they are not prescribed during hospitalization it’s unlikely to happen post discharge,” said Dr. Kosiborod, a cardiologist and codirector of the Haverty Cardiometabolic Center of Excellence at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Mo.

Dr. Mikhail N. Kosiborod, a cardiologist and Co-Director of the Haverty Cardiometabolic Center of Excellence at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Mo. Mitchel L. Zoler/MDedge News

Dr. Mikhail N. Kosiborod

“To our knowledge, the very early improvement in the Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire [KCCQ] score – a well-known predictor of cardiovascular death and heart failure readmissions – that we observed with empagliflozin at 15 days is the first such observation, and if corroborated by future studies would suggest that initiation of SGLT2 inhibitors during hospitalization for acute heart failure may be a tool for improving the quality of hospital-to-home transitions,” wrote Dr. Kosiborod and his associates in the published version of their report that appeared concurrently with his report at the meeting.

“These data really support initiation [of empagliflozin or another SGLT2 inhibitor] in hospital, presuming that the patient has no contraindications,” commented Deepak L. Bhatt, MD, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston and designated discussant for the report.

“The fact that the benefit kicks in so early is really important, because there is a bit of a penalty to wait” to start treatment with an agent from the SGLT2-inhibitor class, added Dr. Bhatt, who is also executive director of interventional cardiovascular programs at Brigham and Women’s Health, in Boston.

In hospital creates a teachable moment

Starting treatment when a patient is hospitalized is also important as “a teachable moment,” added Dr. Bhatt in an interview. “A physician can say to a patient ‘take this drug, and it will prevent you from returning to the hospital,’ at a time when it’s more likely to be impactful, compared with when a patient is out of the hospital and feeling okay and adherence will likely be much lower.”

Dr. Deepak L. Bhatt, Executive Director of Interventional Cardiovascular Programs at Brigham and Women’s Health, in Boston Mitchel L. Zoler/MDedge News

Dr. Deepak L. Bhatt

The results Dr. Kosiborod reported on quality-of-life parameters measured with the KCCQ expanded on what he and his coinvestigators first reported in 2021 with the primary results from EMPULSE, which enrolled 530 patients at 118 centers in 15 countries during June 2020–February 2021. The trial randomized patients hospitalized for acute heart failure after a brief period of stabilization regardless of their left ventricular ejection fraction or presence of diabetes to receive a single, daily dose of 10 mg of empagliflozin (Jardiance) or placebo starting a median of 3 days after admission. Enrolled patients averaged about 71 years of age, about two-thirds were men, 45% had diabetes, 32% had left ventricular ejection fraction greater than 40%, and about two-thirds had decompensated chronic heart failure, while a third had acute de novo heart failure.

The primary outcome for EMPULSE was a combined endpoint of “total clinical endpoints” that included all-cause mortality, heart failure events (heart failure hospitalizations, urgent heart failure visits, and unplanned outpatient heart failure visits) or at least a 5-point change from baseline in the KCCQ score. Using a “win ratio” method for analyzing the composite endpoint, the primary analysis showed that treatment with empagliflozin for 90 days boosted the win ratio by a significant 36% relative to placebo (Nature Med. 2022 Mar;28[3]: 568-74).


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