What the latest guidelines say
The 2018 American Diabetes Association/European Association for the Study of Diabetes joint consensus statement on management of hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetes reflects an appreciation of the cardiovascular benefits of the SGLT2 inhibitors as well as the injectable glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1) agonists, which have shown significant reductions in major adverse cardiovascular events in pivotal trials including LEADER, HARMONY, and REWIND, albeit without the impressive reduction in heart failure hospitalizations documented with the SGLT2 inhibitors.
The consensus statement emphasizes that aggressive lifestyle modification advice is step No. 1, with the first-line medication being metformin titrated to a target of 1,000 mg twice daily. For patients with clinical heart failure or chronic kidney disease and atherosclerotic cardiovascular heart disease, the next drug recommended is an SGLT2 inhibitor with proven cardiovascular benefit. A GLP-1 agonist is recommended as the first injectable medication, ahead of insulin.
Who will take the lead in this new treatment strategy?
Dr. Desai presented data showing that overall utilization of SGLT2 inhibitors and GLP-1 agonists is going up, but not as steeply as it should.
“Cardiologists need to take a more active role,” he declared.
“It’s increasingly clear that, if we’re interested in modifying cardiovascular outcomes, we need to take ownership of this problem, much as we’ve done for lipids and hypertension, because modulating cardiovascular risk is our job,” Dr. Desai asserted. “These drugs may have modest influence on glycemic control, but the primary goal with these agents is to influence cardiovascular outcomes – and if we leave that job to our colleagues, then it often is just a can that gets kicked down the road.”
As a practical matter in prescribing SGLT2 inhibitors and GLP-1 agonists, he emphasized the value of partnering with a primary care physician, endocrinologist, and/or pharmacist by creating pathways for accelerated referral for pharmacologic teaching and, in the case of GLP-1 agonists, injection-related instruction. Pharmacists are often particularly helpful in obtaining prior authorization and financial approval for these medications, and they are familiar with drug discounts and vouchers.
“A great way to jump start collaboration is to provide the patient with a prescription before leaving your office. I think often what we do is just suggest it to the patient, and then a year later they come back and nothing has changed,” the cardiologist said.
Dr. Desai reported serving as a paid consultant to more than half a dozen pharmaceutical or medical device companies.