The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved empagliflozin (Jardiance) as a treatment for adults with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF) regardless of whether patients have diabetes on Aug. 18, making it the second agent from the sodium-glucose transporter 2 inhibitor class to received this indication.
Empagliflozin first received FDA marketing approval in 2014 for improving glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes, and in 2016 the agency added a second indication of reducing cardiovascular death in patients with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The newly granted indication for patients with HFrEF without regard to glycemic status was for reducing the risk for cardiovascular death and hospitalization for heart failure, according to a statement from Boehringer Ingelheim and Lilly, the two companies that together market empagliflozin.
EMPEROR-Reduced: Empagliflozin’s HFrEF benefit solidifies class effects
The statement also said that the approval allowed for empagliflozin treatment in patients with HFrEF and an estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) as low as 20 mL/min per 1.73 m2, in contrast to its indication for improving glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes that limits use to patients with an eGFR of at least 30 mL per 1.73 m2.
EMPEROR-Reduced results drive approval
The FDA based its decision on results from the EMPEROR-Reduced study, first reported in August 2020, that showed treatment of patients with HFrEF with empagliflozin on top of standard therapy for a median of 16 months cut the incidence of cardiovascular death or hospitalization for worsening heart failure by 25% relative to placebo, and by an absolute 5.3%, compared with placebo-treated patients.
Patients enrolled in EMPEROR-Reduced had chronic heart failure in New York Heart Association functional class II-IV and with a left ventricular ejection fraction of 40% or less, the standard ejection fraction criterion for defining HFrEF. Half the enrolled patients had diabetes, and analysis showed no heterogeneity in the primary outcome response based on diabetes status at enrollment.
Empagliflozin joins dapagliflozin for treating HFrEF
Dapagliflozin (Farxiga) was the first agent from the SGLT2 inhibitor class to receive an FDA indication, in 2020, for treating patients with HFrEF regardless of their diabetes status, a decision based on results from the DAPA-HF trial. Results from DAPA-HF showed that treatment with dapagliflozin in patients with HFrEF for a median of 18 months led to a 26% relative reduction in the incidence of cardiovascular death or worsening heart failure and a 4.9% absolute reduction, compared with placebo when added to standard treatment. DAPA-HF enrolled patients using similar criteria to EMPEROR-Reduced, and 42% of enrolled patients had diabetes with no heterogeneity in the primary outcome related to baseline diabetes status.
Subsequent to the report of results from the EMPEROR-Reduced trial nearly a year ago, heart failure experts declared that treatment with an agent from the SGLT2 inhibitor class had become a “new pillar of foundational therapy for HFrEF,” and they urged rapid initiation of an SGLT2 inhibitor (along with other appropriate medications) at the time of initial diagnosis of HFrEF.
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