From the Journals

Angioedema risk jumps when switching HF meds



New renin-angiotensin-system (RAS) inhibitor therapy using sacubitril-valsartan (Entresto) is no more likely to cause angioedema than starting out with an ACE inhibitor or angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB).

But the risk climbs when such patients start on an ACE inhibitor or ARB and then switch to sacubitril-valsartan, compared with those prescribed the newer drug, the only available angiotensin receptor-neprilysin inhibitor (ARNI), in the first place.

Those findings and others from a large database analysis, by researchers at the Food and Drug Administration and Harvard Medical School, may clarify and help alleviate a residual safety concern about the ARNI – that it might promote angioedema – that persists after the drug’s major HF trials.

The angioedema risk increased the most right after the switch to the ARNI from one of the older RAS inhibitors. For example, the overall risk doubled for patients who started with an ARB then switched to sacubitril-valsartan, compared with those who started on the newer drug. But it went up about 2.5 times during the first 14 days after the switch.

A similar pattern emerged for ACE inhibitors, but the increased angioedema risk reached significance only within 2 weeks of the switch from an ACE inhibitor to sacubitril-valsartan compared to starting on the latter.

The analysis, based on data from the FDA’s Sentinel adverse event reporting system, was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

A rare complication, but ...

Angioedema was rare overall in the study, with an unadjusted rate of about 6.75 per 1,000 person-years for users of ACE inhibitors, less than half that rate for ARB users, and only one-fifth that rate for sacubitril-valsartan recipients.

But even a rare complication can be a worry for drugs as widely used as RAS inhibitors. And it’s not unusual for patients cautiously started on an ACE inhibitor or ARB to be switched to sacubitril-valsartan, which is only recently a core guideline–recommended therapy for HF with reduced ejection fraction.

Such patients transitioning to the ARNI, the current study suggests, should probably be watched closely for signs of angioedema for 2 weeks but especially during the first few days. Indeed, the study’s event curves show most of the extra risk “popping up” right after the switch to sacubitril-valsartan, lead author Efe Eworuke, PhD, told this news organization.

The ARNI’s labeling, which states the drug should follow ACE inhibitors only after 36-hour washout period, “has done justice to this issue,” she said. But “whether clinicians are adhering to that, we can’t tell.”

Potentially, patients who miss the 36-hour washout between ACE inhibitors or ARBs and sacubitril-valsartan may account for the excess angioedema risk seen in the analysis, said Dr. Eworuke, with the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Silver Spring, Md.

But the analysis doesn’t nail down the window of excess risk to only 36 hours. It suggests that patients switching to the ARNI – even those pausing for 36 hours in between drugs – should probably be monitored “2 weeks or longer,” she said. “They could still have angioedema after the washout period.”

Indeed, the “timing of the switch may be critical,” according to an editorial accompanying the report. “Perhaps a longer initial exposure period of ACE inhibitor or ARB,” beyond 2 weeks, “should be considered before switching to an ARNI,” contended Robert L. Page II, PharmD, MSPH, University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Aurora.

Dr. Robert L. Page II, professor of clinical pharmacy and physical medicine/rehabilitation at the University of Colorado in Aurora American Heart Association

Dr. Robert L. Page II

Moreover, he wrote, the study suggests that “initiation of an ARNI de novo may be safer compared with trialing an ACE inhibitor or ARB then switching to an ARNI,” and “should be a consideration when beginning guideline-directed medical therapy for patients with HF.”


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