A diabetes medication used to treat the chronic disease is the first to help people with heart failure and could revolutionise treatments, according to new research by the University of East Anglia.
Early research had shown that Sodium-glucose co-transporter-2 (SGLT2) inhibitors could help approximately half of heart failure patients – those with a condition known as reduction ejection fraction.
However, new findings show that the diabetes medication could be beneficial for all heart failure patients – including those with the second type of heart failure called the preserved ejection fraction.
Heart failure affects around one million people in the UK
This medication is the first drug to provide benefits that include improving the outcomes for these patients and the research team at the university believe it will revolutionise treatment options.
Lead researcher Professor Vass Vassiliou, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School and an Honorary Consultant Cardiologist at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said: “Heart failure is a condition where the heart is not pumping as well as it should, and it affects about one million people in the UK.”
He added that: “there are two types of heart failure. Heart Failure with a reduction in ejection fraction happens when the heart is unable to pump blood around the body due to a mechanical issue. And heart failure with preserved ejection fraction happens when, despite the heart pumping out blood well, it is not sufficient to provide oxygen to all the parts of the body. Patients are equally split between the two types of heart failure.”
Using diabetes medication to treat heart failure
Researchers undertook a meta-analysis of all studies published in the field and collated data from almost 10,000 patients. They used statistical modelling to highlight the effect of the diabetes medication.
The diabetes medication that has been studied is SGLT2 inhibitors which more commonly are known under their trade-names Forxiga (Dapagliflozin), Invokana (Canagliflozin), and Jardiance (Empagliflozin).
Professor Vassiliou said: “For many years, there was not a single medicine that could improve the outcome in patients with the second type of heart failure – those patients with preserved ejection fraction. This type of heart failure had puzzled doctors, as every medicine tested showed no benefit. One class of heart medication, called SGLT2 inhibitors, was initially used for patients with diabetes. However, it was noticed that it also helped patients who had heart failure. Previous studies had shown that this medication would be beneficial in heart failure with reduced ejection fraction. But we found that it can also help heart failure patients with preserved ejection fraction.”
The study found that patients taking SGLT2 inhibitors were 22% less likely to die from heart-related causes or be hospitalised for heart failure exacerbation than those taking the placebo medication. Furthermore, this diabetes medication can provide a benefit to a previously untreatable group of patients – in terms of heart-related deaths or hospitalisations.
This study was led by researchers at UEA in collaboration with the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Imperial College London and Imperial College NHS Trust, and Cambridge University Hospitals.