Consider this SGLT2 inhibitor for patients with HF with preserved ejection fraction

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The addition of empagliflozin to usual therapy reduced hospitalization risk, regardless of patients’ diabetes status.


Consider adding empagliflozin 10 mg to usual therapy to reduce hospitalization of symptomatic patients with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF; EF > 40%) and an N-terminal pro–B-type ­natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) level > 300 pg/mL, regardless of diabetes status.


B: Based on a single, good-quality, multicenter, randomized controlled trial.1

Anker SD, Butler J, Filippatos G, et al; EMPEROR-Preserved Trial Investigators. Empagliflozin in heart failure with a preserved ejection fraction. N Engl J Med. 2021;385:1451-1461. doi: 10.1056/NEJM oa2107038




A 72-year-old man with a history of hypertension, permanent atrial fibrillation, and heart failure (HF) comes into your clinic for follow-up. He was hospitalized a few months ago for HF requiring diuresis. His echocardiogram at that time showed an EF of 50% and no significant valvular disease. He does not have a history of diabetes or tobacco use. His medication regimen includes metoprolol, lisinopril-hydrochlorothiazide, apixaban, and atorvastatin. The patient is still symptomatic from his HF and asks you if there is anything else he can do to prevent another hospitalization for HF.

HFpEF was first defined as HF in patients with a left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) > 40%. However, HF with an LVEF between 41% and 49% has been reclassified as its own category: heart failure with mildly reduced ejection fraction (HFmrEF).2 HFpEF is now diagnosed when the patient has HF symptoms and an LVEF ≥ 50%, mimickers (lung disease, pulmonary embolism, pulmonary hypertension, and renal disease) have been excluded, and there is evidence of elevated left ventricular filling pressure or noninvasive correlates such as elevated natriuretic peptides. It is estimated that HFpEF comprises half of all patients with HF.3

In comparison with HF with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF), there are limited proven treatment options with cardiovascular (CV) benefit in HFpEF.4 Spironolactone is associated with a slight decrease in HF-­related hospitalizations but not with a reduction in CV or all-cause mortality for patients with HFpEF.4,5 Angiotensin-­converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), and beta-blockers have not been shown to reduce morbidity or mortality in HFpEF when not indicated for another reason.6,7 Sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors are known to decrease the development and progression of HFrEF8; however, the effect of SGLT2 inhibition in patients with HFpEF remains unclear. Post hoc analyses of a multicenter trial of dapagliflozin in type 2 diabetes indicated no reduction in CV death, hospitalization, or all-cause mortality in HFpEF.9 Another study found improved CV mortality and decreased HF-related urgent visits and hospitalizations with sotagliflozin, but the number of events was too small to estimate a treatment effect.10 Given this uncertainty, the Empagliflozin Outcome Trial in Patients With Chronic Heart Failure With Preserved Ejection Fraction (EMPEROR-­Preserved) was conducted to evaluate the effects of SGLT2 inhibition with empagliflozin in patients with HFpEF.1


Confirmation of benefit of empagliflozin for patients with HFpEF

The EMPEROR-Preserved study was a ­double-blind, placebo-controlled trial that randomized adult patients with HFpEF (defined by an LVEF > 40%) to either placebo or empagliflozin 10 mg/d, in addition to usual therapy. Patients were randomized in a 1:1 ratio stratified by geographic region, diabetes status, renal function (estimated glomerular filtration rate [eGFR] either < 60 or ≥ 60 mL/min/1.73 m2), and LVEF > 40% to < 50% or LVEF ≥ 50%.

For patients with HFpEF, empagliflozin added to usual care significantly reduced the risk of hospitalization for heart failure, regardless of whether patients had diabetes.

Included patients were 18 years or older and had an NT-proBNP level > 300 pg/mL (or > 900 pg/mL if the patient had atrial fibrillation at baseline), an LVEF > 40%, and New York Heart Association (NYHA) class II-IV symptoms at baseline. Patients with a CV event in the preceding 90 days, systolic blood pressure ≥ 180 mm Hg, or significant valvular disease were excluded from the study.

The primary outcome was a composite of CV death or first hospitalization for HF. The secondary outcomes were all hospitalizations for HF and the rate of decline in eGFR.

Of the 5988 patients in the trial, 2997 were randomized to receive empagliflozin and 2991 were randomized to placebo. The average age was 72 years in each group, 45% of patients were women, about 76% were White, and 12% were from North America. About 81% of patients were classified as NYHA class II, nearly half had diabetes, and half had an eGFR < 60 mL/min/1.73 m2. The median body mass index (BMI) was 30, and the median LVEF was 54%. At baseline, the groups were similar in BMI, history of HF hospitalization in the past 12 months, history of common risk factors for HFpEF (atrial fibrillation, diabetes, and hypertension), and prescribed CV medications (ACE inhibitor or ARB with or without a neprilysin inhibitor, spironolactone, beta-blocker, digitalis glycosides, aspirin, and statins). Patients were followed for a median of 26.2 months.

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