Diabetes medication can be used to treat heart failure

A common diabetes medication, originally introduced as a treatment for diabetes, can be successfully used to treat patients with heart failure, reducing their risk of worsening heart failure or death from cardiovascular causes by more than 25%.

The new research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2019, found the diabetes drug dapagliflozin could be used as a treatment for patients with heart failure, even if they don’t also have diabetes.

Led by leading cardiologist Professor John McMurray of the University of Glasgow, researchers presented data which showed that dapagliflozin reduced patients’ risk of heart failure worsening or cardiovascular death by 26%.

In addition to these results, dapagliflozin also reduced the risk of death from any cause by 17% in patients with established heart failure and hospital admission with worsening heart failure by 30%, as well as improving symptoms and quality of life. .

Dapagliflozin is known to effectively treat diabetes and also reduce the risk of these patients developing heart failure – a very common complication of type 2 diabetes. In this study, researchers wanted to find out whether the same medication could effectively treat patients already diagnosed with heart failure, irrespective of whether they had diabetes or not.

The DAPA-HF trial looked at 4,744 patients from 20 countries around the world. Researchers then measured the effectiveness of the drug against a placebo. Around half the patients enrolled in the trial did not have diabetes

Professor John McMurray, Professor of Cardiology at the University of Glasgow, said: “These are really once in a lifetime findings, that show that a commonly prescribed drug for diabetes can effectively be used to treat people with heart failure.

 “The results from DAPA-HF are remarkable – probably the most important finding of all is that dapagliflozin was associated with benefit in patients without diabetes. With dapagliflozin, we did the three things you want to do for the patient in the ideal world: make them feel better, keep them out of hospital and keep them alive. That’s why we’re so delighted with the results.”

Quality of life is a major issue for patients with heart failure and dapagliflozin appears to have a positive benefit on patients’ well-being.

Professor McMurray said: “Patients with heart failure report worse quality of life than individuals with any other chronic condition. In this trial, when compared with placebo, patients who were treated with dapagliflozin had a clinically important improvement in health-related quality of life.”

DAPA-HF is funded by AstraZeneca.

Enquiries: ali.howard@glasgow.ac.uk orelizabeth.mcmeekin@glasgow.ac.uk / 0141 330 6557 or 0141 330 4831

First published: 1 September 2019