Prof hails ‘once in a lifetime’ breakthrough on heart failure treatment

Professor John McMurray.
Professor John McMurray.

A common diabetes medication can be successfully used to treat heart failure patients and cut their risk of death from cardiovascular causes by a quarter.

Those are the findings of new research led by cardiologist Professor John McMurray of the University of Glasgow, which centres on use of the drug dapagliflozin.

The ground-breaking study, being unveiled today at a major European conference, appears to show the drug is effective on heart patients even if they don’t have diabetes.

The risk of death from any cause is said to have been reduced by 17 per cent in patients with established heart failure, and the chances of hospital admission through worsening heart failure are said to be down by 30 per cent.

Apart from these major advantages the treatment is also said to improve patients’ health and wellbeing.

Dapagliflozin is known to effectively treat diabetes and also reduce the risk of these patients developing heart failure – a very common complication of type 2 diabetes.

In this study researchers wanted to find if the same medication could effectively treat patients already diagnosed with heart failure, whether they had diabetes or not.

The DAPA-HF trial looked at 4,744 patients from 20 countries around the world, half of whom did not have diabetes, and then measured the effectiveness of the drug against a placebo.

Professor McMurray said: “These are really once in a lifetime findings that show that a commonly prescribed drug for diabetes can effectively be used to treat people with heart failure.

“The results from DAPA-HF are remarkable – probably the most important finding of all is that dapagliflozin was associated with benefit in patients without diabetes.

“With dapagliflozin we did the three things you want to do for the patient in the ideal world - make them feel better, keep them out of hospital and keep them alive. That’s why we’re so delighted with the results.

“Patients with heart failure report worse quality of life than individuals with any other chronic condition.

In this trial, when compared with a placebo, patients who were treated with dapagliflozin had a clinically important improvement in health-related quality of life.”