Conference Coverage

Frailty poses no limit to HFpEF meds



– Increased frailty of patients with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) should have no bearing on whether those patients receive sacubitril/valsartan (Entresto), according to results of a post hoc analysis of data from a pivotal trial.

Plus, a recently reported prespecified analysis of data from a different pivotal trial shows that the same rule applies to patients with HFpEF who receive treatment with dapagliflozin (Farxiga). A pair of earlier reports showed similar findings for dapagliflozin and sacubitril/valsartan in patients with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF).

Dr. Jawad H. Butt, cardiologist, University Hospital, Copenhagen

Dr. Jawad H. Butt

“There appears to be a greater reduction in the primary outcome and in hospitalizations for heart failure with sacubitril/valsartan compared with valsartan with increasing frailty, and sacubitril/valsartan was safe and well tolerated regardless of frailty status” in post hoc analysis of data from the PARAGON-HF trial, Jawad H. Butt, MD, reported at the annual congress of the European Society of Cardiology.

Analysis of the treatment effect by sacubitril/valsartan compared with valsartan in patients with HFpEF in PARAGON-HF showed that sacubitril/valsartan actually benefited patients more as their frailty increased when researchers applied frailty severity as a continuous variable. When they analyzed frailty’s effect by dividing the study cohort into three subgroups based on frailty severity – not frail, more frail, and most frail – the statistical analysis showed no significant heterogeneity of effect, although the point estimates for each subgroup showed by far the biggest benefit among the most frail patients. A safety analysis showed consistent safety of sacubitril/valsartan compared with valsartan across all three frailty subgroups, Dr. Butt reported.

Simultaneously with his report at the congress the results appeared online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Don’t withhold sacubitril/valsartan because of frailty

“We should not withhold [sacubitril/valsartan] treatment in patients perceived to be frail,” Dr. Butt declared in an interview. “There are no safety concerns, and no efficacy concerns,” although he cautioned that sacubitril/valsartan is not indicated for all patients with HFpEF. “If you believe that sacubitril/valsartan is indicated for a patient with HFpEF, do not withhold it just because of frailty,” said Dr. Butt, a cardiologist at Copenhagen University Hospital.

Dr. Butt went a step further and stressed, “I don’t think we should measure frailty” when considering patients with heart failure for treatment with sacubitril/valsartan, or with dapagliflozin, which had shown safety and maintained efficacy in a prespecified analysis he recently reported for patients with HFpEF, and in a separate recent report on a post hoc analysis of dapagliflozin use in patients with HFrEF in the DAPA-HF trial.

A published report also showed no evidence for an interaction between frailty and efficacy for sacubitril/valsartan compared with valsartan in the PARADIGM-HF pivotal trial, which enrolled people with HFrEF.

The issue of treatment safety and efficacy for patients considered frail is especially notable because “clinicians may be more reluctant to initiate new therapies due to doubt about the benefit of treatments in frail patients and apprehensions about predisposing them to potential new adverse effects,” said Dr. Butt.

“We should not defer these treatments on account of patient frailty,” said Maja Cikes, MD, a cardiologist at the University Hospital Center Zagreb, Croatia. The report by Dr. Butt “shows the safety” of using sacubitril/valsartan in most patients with HFpEF regardless of their frailty status, Dr. Cikes added in an interview.

Dr. Maja Cikes, cardiologist, University Hospital Center Zagreb, Croatia Mitchel L. Zoler/MDedge News

Dr. Maja Cikes

‘Benefits without increasing the risk of frailty’

The data reported by Dr. Butt “suggest that although frail older persons with HFpEF are at greater risk for adverse outcomes overall, the prescription of sacubitril/valsartan seems to confer benefits without increasing the risk of frailty-related adverse events,” George A. Heckman, MD, a geriatrician at the University of Waterloo (Canada), and Kenneth Rockwood, MD, professor of geriatric medicine at Dalhousie University in Halifax, N.S., wrote in an editorial that accompanied the published version of Dr. Butt’s report.

The PARADIGM-HF trial enrolled 4,822 patients with heart failure and a left ventricular ejection fraction of at least 45% at 848 centers in 43 countries during 2014-2016, and followed them for a median of 35 months, with a primary endpoint of the combined rate of hospitalization for heart failure or cardiovascular death. Treatment with sacubitril/valsartan reduced the incidence of the primary endpoint by 13% compared with the control patients who received valsartan, a difference that missed narrowly missed significance (P = .06).

Despite this statistically neutral result, the Food and Drug Administration subsequently, based on these results, modified the indication for using sacubitril/valsartan from exclusively patients with HFrEF to patients with higher left ventricular ejection fractions, including at least some patients diagnosed with HFpEF.

To run the frailty analysis, Dr. Butt and his associates devised a 41-item frailty index, which identified 45% of the study cohort as not frail, 44% as more frail, and 11% as most frail. Their analyses also showed that frailty severity had no significant relationship to the effect of treatment with sacubitril valsartan on improving quality of life, or on improving functional status. Frailty also played no apparent role in the impact of sacubitril/valsartan compared with valsartan on treatment discontinuations or adverse effects.

PARAGON-HF and PARADIGM-HF were sponsored by Novartis, the company that markets sacubitril/valsartan (Entresto). Dr. Butt has been an adviser to Bayer. Dr. Cikes has received travel support or honoraria from Novartis as well as from Amicus, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, GE Healthcare, Krka, LivaNova, Pfizer, Sanofi, and Teva, and research support or contracts from Novartis as well as from Abbott, Corvia, and Pfizer. Dr. Heckman had no disclosures. Dr. Rockwood is a cofounder of Ardea Outcomes, an adviser to Nutricia, and he holds a copyright through Dalhousie University on the Clinical Frailty Scale (which allows free use for educational, research, and not-for-profit health care purposes).

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