AHA scientific statement highlights cardiorenal benefit of new diabetes drugs


To protect the heart and kidneys, sodium-glucose transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors and glucagonlike peptide–1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists should be considered for people with type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease (CKD), the American Heart Association advised in a new scientific statement.

Taken together, the results of relevant clinical trials indicate that SGLT2 inhibitors and GLP-1 receptor agonists safely and significantly reduce the risk for cardiovascular (CV) events, death, and the slow progression of CKD to end-stage kidney disease, including the risks for dialysis, transplantation, and death, the writing group says.

The scientific statement was published online Sept. 28 in Circulation.

“There has been rapid reporting of high-quality data in the cardio-renal-metabolic space with significant heart and kidney benefits, particularly with these two newer classes of antihyperglycemic agents,” Janani Rangaswami, MD, who chaired the writing group, said in an interview.

“More recent data show benefits in chronic kidney disease and heart failure even in patients without diabetes,” said Dr. Rangaswami, Einstein Medical Center and Sidney Kimmel Medical College, both in Philadelphia.

“These data are practice-changing in both cardiology and nephrology, and usher in a new era of disease-modifying therapies in heart and kidney disease,” Dr. Rangaswami added.

Recommendations at a glance

  • Provide early and ongoing assessment of risks for CVD and CKD to patients who may benefit from SGLT2 inhibitors of GLP-1 receptor agonists.
  • Tailor medication choices that meet the needs of individual patients. Realize that, given “consistent class-wide effects,” the choice of a specific SGLT2 inhibitor or GLP-1 receptor agonist may be dictated by affordability, coverage, and formulary considerations.
  • Adjust all medications in tandem with these medicines and consider the burden of polypharmacy, which is common among people with type 2 diabetes. Adjust concomitant therapies and deprescribe where possible.
  • Identify risks for hypoglycemia and educate patients on the signs so they can seek treatment quickly.
  • Monitor and control high blood pressure.
  • Counsel patients about the risks for and symptoms of euglycemic diabetic ketoacidosis when taking SGLT2 inhibitors, as well as classic DKA, which can be fatal.
  • Regularly screen and counsel patients about foot care to prevent foot ulcers or blisters that can quickly become infected and lead to amputation.

The writing group identified two additional patient subgroups that may benefit from SGLT2 inhibitors and GLP-1 receptor agonists: those with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction with or without diabetes; and those with CKD who do not have diabetes. They say more data are anticipated to validate the use of SGLT2 inhibitors and GLP-1 receptor agonists in these “at-risk” patients.

Collaborative care model

The writing group proposed a collaborative care model, bridging cardiologists, nephrologists, endocrinologists, and primary care physicians, to help facilitate the “prompt and appropriate” integration of these new classes of medications in the management of patients with type 2 diabetes and CKD.

There is “an unmet need for a cardio-renal-metabolic care model that incorporates best practices in the real world to help align these therapies, especially with vulnerable high-risk patients with cardiorenal disease, and to overcome barriers toward uptake of these agents. Hopefully this statement provides some guidance to the cardiology and nephrology communities in that area,” Dr. Rangaswami said in an interview.

But old habits die hard, as research continues to show the slow adoption of these newer medications in the real world.

For example, a large observational study published last year showed a “striking” discordance between evidence-based, guideline-recommended use of SGLT2 inhibitors for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and their actual uptake in clinical practice.

Paradoxically, patients with CVD, heart failure, hypertension, CKD, and those at risk for hypoglycemia were less apt to receive an SGLT2 inhibitor than other patients.

“The relatively slow uptake of these agents is multifactorial,” Dr. Rangaswami said. “Cardiologists and nephrologists may suffer from some level of ‘therapeutic inertia’ when using new agents they are unfamiliar with and originally branded as ‘antidiabetic’ agents, with the perception of these agents being outside the scope of their practice.”

Two other factors are also at play. “The current health care system is based on ‘specialty silos,’ where specialists tend to stick to the traditional scope of their specialty and are reluctant to view these agents as part of their therapeutic armamentarium. Finally, insurance coverage barriers and affordability also limit the use on a widespread basis,” Dr. Rangaswami said.

A version of this article originally appeared on .

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