AMSTERDAM – Adults with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) but without diabetes showed significant improvements in their heart failure-related symptoms and physical limitations, exercise function, and weight loss when treated with a weight-reducing dose of semaglutide for 52 weeks, compared with placebo, in the randomized STEP-HFpEF trial.
The results, which also showed the treatment’s safety in these patients, “indicate that treatment with semaglutide is a valuable therapeutic approach in the management of patients with HFpEF and obesity,” Mikhail Kosiborod, MD, said at the annual congress of the European Society of Cardiology.
The findings establish semaglutide, a glucagonlike peptide–1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist, as a second class of medication with proven efficacy and safety for people with HFpEF, joining two agents also proven beneficial for people with HFpEF, dapagliflozin (Farxiga) and empagliflozin (Jardiance), both from the class of sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors.
When administered at the approved dose for weight loss of 2.4 mg, injected subcutaneously weekly for 52 weeks, semaglutide (Wegovy) produced an average 7.8-point incremental improvement in patients’ scores on the Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire (KCCQ), a validated measure of symptoms and functional limitations, compared with controls who received placebo injections, as well as an average incremental weight loss from baseline, compared with placebo, of 10.7%. Both were significant effects, compared with placebo, and clinically meaningful benefits for the study’s two primary endpoints.
Simultaneously with Kosiborod’s report the results also appeared in a report posted online in the New England Journal of Medicine.
A ‘paradigm shift’ for medical weight loss in cardiology
The findings from this study with 529 randomized patients immediately propelled the weight loss formulation of semaglutide into the ranks of agents used to treat and prevent cardiovascular disease events. This evolution in the indications for semaglutide will be driven not only by the STEP-HFpEF results but also by findings from the SELECT trial, which tested the same semaglutide weight-loss dose in people with obesity, established cardiovascular disease, and had positive top-line results for prevention of major cardiovascular adverse events, according to a press release from Novo Nordisk on Aug. 8.
The STEP-HFpEF and SELECT results will trigger “a paradigm shift” for cardiologists, who will now need to consider prescribing a weight-loss medication to many of their patients, agents that until now were not part of the usual pharmacologic toolbox for cardiologists, 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. This shift will require education to bring the clinical cardiology community on board, he added in an interview.
Given that semaglutide administered at this dose already has a Food and Drug Administration–approved indication for weight loss in people with obesity or overweight plus at least one comorbidity, clinicians could immediately start using the treatment in people with obesity and HFpEF, said Dr. Kosiborod and other cardiologists.
Weekly semaglutide injections “could be considered a treatment option right now” for people with obesity and HFpEF, Dr. Kosiborod said during a press briefing.
Other experts agreed, especially because the STEP-HFpEF results confirmed that weight loss treatment with semaglutide was safe in this population.