​ ​ ​ ​

Specific treatment makes type of heart failure treatable for the first time

Professor Stefan Anker from Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin is Principal Investigator at the DZHK and head of the international study. © Galip Ölmez

​ ​

For the first time, patients with a certain form of heart failure can be treated specifically - with a diabetes drug. The drug lowers their risk of hospitalization or death by 21 percent. So far, there has been a lack of good treatment options for heart failure patients with preserved pumping capacity, which is also called heart failure with preserved ejecton fraction, or HFpEF for short.

​ ​

While heart failure with reduced pump function has been treated with medication for many years, there has been no specific therapy for HFpEF patients: doctors only treated symptoms and concomitant diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

In a large-scale clinical study with almost 6000 participants, researchers have now provided evidence that the active ingredient empagliflozin improves the prognosis for HFpEF patients. The active ingredient is currently approved in Europe for the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Heart failure patients with reduced pumping capacity are already being treated with it. The EMPEROR-Preserved study was presented at the congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) at the end of August.

Around 60 million people worldwide suffer from cardiac insufficiency, around half of them from HFpEF. HFpEF is the most common type of heart failure in the elderly. The heart is still pumping vigorously, but the left ventricle is stiff and does not fill sufficiently with oxygen-rich blood.

Safe drug with mild side effects

Because the heart can no longer pump enough blood through the body, heart failure patients often suffer from temporary exhaustion during exercise and shortness of breath. If the disease progresses, they become out of breath with slight movement or even at rest. Water retention, for example in the ankles, are also signs of a weak heart.

"For the first time, we can offer people suffering from cardiac insufficiency with preserved pumping function a drug that improves their prognosis and also their well-being - and that with a very good safety profile," says the head of the international study, Professor Stefan Anker from the Charité - University Medicine Berlin. “The side effects are mild and can be treated well medically.” Professor Anker is a Principal Investigator at the DZHK.

People with diabetes who develop HFpEF could already receive the drug as part of its approval. The manufacturer is also planning to apply for a license extension for the treatment of HFpEF.


Original publication:

Anker SD et al. Empagliflozin in Heart Failure with a Preserved Ejection Fraction. N Engl J Med (2021), doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa2107038.

Source: Press release from Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin