Counting additional cardiovascular disease events allows more analyses
A third auxiliaryfrom the EMPEROR-Preserved investigators performed several prespecified analyses that depended on adding additional cardiovascular disease endpoints to the core tallies of cardiovascular death or HHF – such as emergent, urgent, and outpatient events that reflected worsening heart failure – and also included information on diuretic and vasopressor use because of worsening heart failure. The increased event numbers allowed the researchers to perform 30 additional analyses included in this report, according to the count kept by Dr. Packer who was the lead author.
He highlighted several of the additional results in this paper that documented benefits from empagliflozin treatment, compared with placebo:
- A significant 29% reduction in the need for admission to a cardiac care unit or intensive care unit during an HHF.
- A nonsignificant 33% reduction in the need for intravenous vasopressors or positive inotropic drugs during HHF.
- A significantly increased rate of patients achieving a higher New York Heart Association functional class. For example, after the first year of treatment patients who received empagliflozin had a 37% higher rate of functional class improvement, compared with patients who received placebo.
Dr. McMurray had his own list of key takeaways from this paper, including:
- Among patients who needed hospitalization, “those treated with empagliflozin were less sick than those in the placebo group.”
- In addition to reducing HHF empagliflozin treatment also reduced episodes of outpatient worsening as reflected by their receipt of intensified diuretic treatment, which occurred a significant 27% less often, compared with patients on placebo.
- Treatment with empagliflozin also linked with a significant 39% relative reduction in emergency or urgent-care visits that required intravenous therapy.
Empagliflozin’s performance relative to sacubitril/valsartan
The fourth additionalfocused on a post hoc, cross-trial comparison of the results from EMPEROR-Preserved and from another recent trial that, like EMPEROR-Preserved, assessed in patients with HFpEF a drug previously proven to work quite well in patients with HFrEF. The comparator drug was sacubitril/valsartan (Entresto), which underwent testing in patients with HFpEF in the trial.
The primary outcome of PARAGON-HF, which randomized 4,822 patients, was reduction in cardiovascular death and in total HHF. This dropped by a relative 13%, compared with placebo, during a median of 35 months, a between-group difference that came close to but did not achieve significance (P = .06). Despite this limitation, the Food and Drug Administration in February 2021for using sacubitril/valsartan in patients with heart failure and a “below normal” ejection fraction, a category that can include many patients considered to have HFpEF.
Although the researchers who ran this analysis, including Dr. Packer, who was the first author, admitted that “comparison of effect sizes across trials is fraught with difficulties,” they nonetheless concluded from their
Dr. McMurray, a lead instigator for PARAGON-HF, said there was little to take away from this analysis.
“The patient populations were different, and sacubitril/valsartan was compared against an active therapy, valsartan,” while in EMPEROR-Preserved empagliflozin compared against placebo. “Most of us believe that sacubitril/valsartan and SGLT2 inhibitors work in different but complementary ways, and their benefits are additive. You would want patients with HFpEF or HFrEF to take both,” he said in an interview.
Dr. Packer agreed with that approach and added that he would probably also prescribe a third agent, spironolactone, to many patients with HFpEF.
EMPEROR-Preserved was sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly, which jointly market empagliflozin (Jardiance). PARAGON-HF was sponsored by Novartis, which markets sacubitril/valsartan (Entresto). Dr. Packer has received consulting fees from Boehringer Ingelheim and from numerous other companies. Dr. de Boer has research contracts with Boehringer Ingelheim as well as from Abbott, AstraZeneca, Cardior, Ionis, Novo Nordisk, and Roche, and he has been a consultant to Novartis as well as to Abbott, AstraZeneca, Gayer, and Roche. Dr. McMurray led trials of sacubitril/valsartan sponsored by Novartis, and his institution has received compensation for his participation in studies sponsored by Abbvie, AstraZeneca, Cardurion, DalCor, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, and Theracos.