Prescribe an SGLT2 inhibitor for heart failure in the absence of diabetes?

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An RCT demonstrates that dapagliflozin produces better cardiovascular outcomes than placebo for heart failure patients with and without diabetes.


Prescribe dapagliflozin, a sodium-glucose cotransporter-2 (SGLT2) inhibitor, 10 mg/d in addition to standard therapies for adult patients with heart failure (HF) with a reduced ejection fraction (≤ 40%) and New York Heart Association (NYHA) class II or greater, regardless of type 2 diabetes history, due to improved heart failure and cardiovascular outcomes.1


B: Based on a single randomized controlled trial.1

McMurray JJV, Solomon SD, Inzucchi SE, et al. Dapagliflozin in patients with heart failure and reduced ejection fraction. N Engl J Med. 2019;381:1995‐2008.




A 64-year-old overweight White man with a history of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and HF with an ejection fraction (EF) of 40% presents for primary care follow-up after a recent inpatient admission for worsened HF symptoms. At baseline, he is comfortable at rest but becomes dyspneic upon walking to another room within his home. He is already taking a mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist, a high-intensity statin, a beta-blocker, and an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor. What other medication should be considered to minimize his cardiovascular (CV)risk?

An estimated 1% to 2% of the world’s adult population has HF.2 Although the exact prevalence is difficult to quantify due to variations in definitions and diagnostic methods, the American Heart Association (AHA) estimated that 6.2 million Americans had HF between 2013 and 2016.3 Prevalence increases with age, with an annual incidence of approximately 35 per 1000 by age 85.4 Due to the significant morbidity and mortality associated with HF, advancements in treatment are needed.

SGLT2 inhibitors work within the proximal tubule of the kidneys, resulting in increased glucose and sodium excretion with secondary osmotic diuresis and therefore a modest reduction in serum glucose.1,2,5,6 SGLT2 inhibitors are classically prescribed for hyperglycemia treatment in type 2 diabetes. However, preliminary data suggest that this class of medication also positively impacts cardiac function. The diuresis and natriuresis effects of SGLT2 inhibitors appear to optimize cardiac output and subsequent oxygen consumption through a reduction of afterload and preload.1,2,5,6 Further, SGLT2 inhibitors may decrease inflammatory pathways and lead to a secondary reduction of cardiac remodeling via a reduction and modulation of inflammatory pathways. This reduction and modulation may also be associated with a reduction in development, and possibly a reversal, of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, cardiac fibrosis, and atherosclerosis.5,6 Some of the previously reported adverse effects of SGLT2 inhibitors include urinary tract infection, acute kidney injury, lower extremity amputation, bone fracture, and diabetic ketoacidosis.2

In several studies of patients with type 2 diabetes, SGLT2 inhibitors have shown benefit in reducing CV disease–related death and hospitalization for HF.1,2,5,6 A recent expert consensus from the American College of Cardiology (ACC) states that SGLT2 therapy should be considered for any patient with type 2 diabetes who also has established atherosclerotic CV disease, HF (a clinical syndrome as defined in ACC/AHA guidelines), or diabetic kidney disease, or who is at a high risk for atherosclerotic CV disease (ie, has signs of end-organ damage, such as left ventricular hypertrophy or retinopathy, or multiple risk factors such as advanced age, smoking, hypertension, and family history).7,8

Dapagliflozin demonstrated decreased HF exacerbations and CV deaths, improved patient-reported HF symptoms, and lower allcause mortality in patients both with and without diabetes.

Additionally, a 2019 randomized controlled trial (RCT) by Nassif et al showed that, compared to placebo, dapagliflozin significantly improved both patient-reported HF symptoms and cardiac natriuretic peptide levels over 12 weeks in patients with and without diabetes.9 In September 2020, ­UpToDate added SGLT2 inhibitors as an option for patients with continued symptoms of HF despite use of appropriate primary agents and mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists, whether or not they have type 2 diabetes; this update was based on 2 studies, 1 of which is reviewed here.10


Dapagliflozin demonstrated better CV outcomes than placebo

The Dapagliflozin and Prevention of Adverse Outcomes in Heart Failure (DAPA-HF) study is an RCT that compared dapagliflozin to placebo among 4744 patients ages 18 years and older who had HF with an EF ≤ 40% and NYHA class II, III, or IV symptoms. The study included patients with (41.8%) and without diabetes. Most patients were male (76.2%-77%), White (70%), and European (44.7%-46.1%).

Patients were randomized to receive either dapagliflozin 10 mg/d or a matching placebo in addition to standard HF therapy (including an ACE inhibitor, angiotensin receptor blocker, or sacubitril-valsartan plus a beta-blocker unless contraindicated; mineralocorticoid antagonist use was encouraged). Follow-up occurred at 14 days, 60 days, 4 months, and then every 4 months, for an average of about 18 months. Patients with diabetes continued to use their glucose-lowering therapies, with dose adjustments, as needed.

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