The road to routine use of these SGLT2 inhibitor drugs should be hastened by empagliflozin’s impressive performance in EMPEROR-Reduced, in which the drug scored highly significant benefits over placebo for the prespecified primary and two major secondary endpoints, one of which was a measure of preserved renal function.
The trial randomized 3,730 patients at 520 sites in 20 countries during 2017-2019 and followed them on treatment for a median of 16 months. All patients had a left ventricular ejection fraction of 40% or less, and roughly three-quarters had New York Heart Association (NYHA) class II function, nearly one-quarter had class III function, and fewer than 1% of patients fell into the class IV category.
The primary endpoint occurred in 19% of the empagliflozin-treated patients and in 25% of those who received placebo. Among the half of patients with diabetes in the trial, the relative risk reduction by empagliflozin compared with placebo was a statistically significant 28%; among those without diabetes, it was a statistically significant 22%. Concurrently with Dr. Packer’s report, the results appeared in an article posted online (N Engl J Med. 2020 Aug 29. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa2022190).
The study also had two main prespecified secondary endpoints: the incidence of total hospitalizations for heart failure, both first and recurrent, which fell by 30% in the empagliflozin-treated patients, compared with placebo, and the rate of declining renal function during the 16 months of the study as measured by estimated glomerular filtration rate, which dropped by roughly 1 mL/min per 1.73 m2 among the empagliflozin recipients and by about 4 mL/min/ per 1.73 m2 in the placebo patients.
Treatment with empagliflozin also achieved a notable, statistically significant 50% drop in major adverse renal events, consistent with the performance of other drugs in the class.
“Renal protection is a big plus” of empagliflozin in this trial and from the other SGLT2 inhibitors in prior studies, noted Dr. O’Connor.
The EMPEROR-Reduced results also showed an important benefit for HFrEF patients from empagliflozin not previously seen as quickly with any other drug class, noted Dr. Packer. The SGLT2 inhibitor led to statistically a significant slowing in the progression of patients from NYHA class II function to class III, compared with placebo, and it also significantly promoted the recovery of patients from NYHA class III to class II, an effect that became apparent within the first month on treatment and a benefit that is a “big deal” for patients because it represents a “significant change in functional capacity.” This additional dimension of empagliflozin’s benefit “really impressed me,” Dr. Packer said.
EMPEROR-Reduced was funded by Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly, the companies that market empagliflozin. Dr. Packer has received personal fees from Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly and from several other companies. Dr. Poppas and Dr. O’Connor had no relevant disclosures.
SOURCE: Packer M. ESC 2020. N Engl J Med. 2020 Aug 29. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa2022190.