PHILADELPHIA – The definition and treatment of heart failure with reduced ejection fraction should change based on recent findings and analyses from major trials, said a key heart failure leader at the American Heart Association scientific sessions.
The people charged with writing U.S. guidelines for heart failure management already have enough evidence to change the recommended way of using sacubitril/valsartan (Entresto) in patients with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF), said, professor of medicine and chief of cardiology at Northwestern University, Chicago. Accumulated evidence from studies and more than 5 years of experience in routine practice with the angiotensin receptor neprilysin inhibitor (ARNI) combination sacubitril/valsartan for treating HFrEF patients justifies striking the existing recommendation to first start patients on an ACE inhibitor or angiotensin receptor blocker and only after that switching to sacubitril/valsartan, a sequence that has rankled some clinicians as an unnecessary delay and barrier to starting patients on the ARNI regimen.
U.S. guidelines should now suggest that ARNI treatment start immediately, suggested Dr. Yancy, who chaired the AHA/American College of Cardiology panel that updated U.S. guidelines for heart failure management in 2013 (), 2016 ( ), and 2017 ( ).
Expanding the heart failure group for sacubitril/valsartan
Dr. Yancy also proposed a second major and immediate change to the existing heart failure guideline based on a new appreciation of a heart failure population that could benefit from ARNI treatment: patients with “mid-range” heart failure, defined by a left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) of 41%-49% that places them between patients with HFrEF with an ejection fraction of 40% or less, and those with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) of 50% or more. As yet unchanged in the 2013 AHA/ACC heart failure guideline is the proposition that patients with heart failure and an ejection fraction of 41%-49% have “borderline” heart failure with characteristics, treatment patterns, and outcomes “similar to patients with HFpEF.”
That premise should now go out the window, urged Dr. Yancy, based on a new analysis of data collected from both the recenttrial of sacubitril/valsartan in patients with HFpEF and ejection fractions of 45% or higher ( ) and the landmark trial that established sacubitril/valsartan as a treatment for patients with HFrEF ( ). A combined analysis of the more than 13,000 total patients in both studies suggested that “patients with ejection fraction lower than normal, which includes those with so-called heart failure with mid-range ejection fraction or borderline ejection fraction, would likely benefit from sacubitril/valsartan, compared with RAS inhibition,” concluded the authors of the new analysis (Circulation. 2019 Nov 17. ).
Dr. Yancy argued that, based on this new analysis, a further revision to the 2013 guideline should say that patients with heart failure with a LVEF of 41%-49% have characteristics, treatment responses, and outcomes that “appear similar to those of patient with HFrEF,” a sharp departure from the existing text that lumps these patients with the HFpEF subgroup. “There appears to be a signal that extends the benefit of ARNI to patients with ejection fractions above the current threshold for HFrEF but below what is typically HFpEF,” he said.