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PIONEER-HF called “practice changing” for acute decompensated heart failure



– Initiation of angiotensin-neprilysin inhibition using sacubitril/valsartan during hospitalization for acute decompensated heart failure, instead of relying upon enalapril, resulted in a substantially greater reduction in N-terminal of the prohormone brain natriuretic peptide concentration and a markedly lower rate of rehospitalization with no safety downside in the PIONEER-HF trial, Eric J. Velazquez, MD, reported at the American Heart Association scientific sessions.

Dr. Eric J. Velazquez of Yale University Bruce Jancin/MDedge News

Dr. Eric J. Velazquez

“We believe these results have clinical implications that support the in-hospital initiation of sacubitril/valsartan in stabilized patients with acute decompensated heart failure and reduced ejection fraction irrespective of prior ACE inhibitor or ARB [angiotensin II receptor blocker] use or prior diagnosis of heart failure,” said Dr. Velazquez, a professor of medicine and chief of the section of cardiovascular medicine at Yale University, New Haven, Conn., and physician in chief of the Heart and Vascular Center for the Yale-New Haven Health System.

Sacubitril/valsartan (Entresto) has a class I indication for treatment of symptomatic heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF) in the AHA/American College of Cardiology guidelines. This strong recommendation is based largely upon the impressive results of the PARADIGM-HF trial, which in ambulatory outpatients demonstrated a lower risk of cardiovascular mortality or hospitalization for heart failure than enalapril (N Engl J Med. 2014 Sep 11;371[11]:993-1004).

However, since patients with acute decompensated heart failure (ADHF) were excluded from PARADIGM-HF, the safety and effectiveness of starting such patients on the drug while hospitalized for acute decompensation was unknown.

PIONEER-HF was carried out to shed light on that issue and thereby address a major unmet need for better treatments for ADHF. Even though this condition accounts for more than 1 million hospitalizations annually in the United States, short-term rehospitalization and mortality rates in affected patients remain unacceptably high at 21% and 12%, respectively. And the standard-of-care treatment – decongestion with intravenous diuretics and hemodynamic support with inotropes and vasodilators – hasn’t changed in nearly half a century, Dr. Velazquez noted.

The trial included 881 patients hospitalized for acute decompensated HFrEF at 129 U.S. centers. The study population was diverse: 36% of participants were black and one-third of subjects had no diagnosis of heart failure prior to their hospitalization. After achieving hemodynamic stabilization, patients were randomized to receive sacubitril/valsartan or enalapril.

Key outcomes

The primary endpoint was change in N-terminal of the prohormone brain natriuretic peptide concentration from baseline to week 8. There was a 25% reduction in the enalapril group and a 45% reduction with sacubitril/valsartan. This translated to a highly significant 29% greater relative risk reduction with sacubitril/valsartan.

More eye opening was the between-group difference in the prespecified composite clinical endpoint comprising death, rehospitalization for heart failure, implantation of a left ventricular assist device, or listing for heart transplant during the 8-week study.

The rate was 16.8% in the enalapril group and 9.3% with sacubitril/valsartan. This worked out to a 46% relative risk reduction, with a number needed to treat of 13.

The composite result was driven by a 44% reduction in risk of heart failure rehospitalization in the sacubitril/valsartan group: 8.0% versus 13.8%. The sacubitril/valsartan group also had a numerically lower mortality rate: 2.3% versus 3.4%, although the number of fatalities was small and this 34% relative risk reduction didn’t achieve statistical significance.

Rates of the key safety outcomes – symptomatic hypotension, worsening renal function, hyperkalemia, and angioedema – didn’t differ between the two study arms. Of interest, however, all six cases of angioedema in the enalapril group occurred in black patients, while the only case in the sacubitril/valsartan group was in a white patient.


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