New York: Empagliflozin, a recently developed diabetes drug, can effectively treat and reverse heart failure in both diabetics and non-diabetics, say researchers.
The clinical trial, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, showed that this medication can improve the heart's size, shape, and function, leading to better exercise capacity and quality of life, which will reduce hospitalizations for heart failure patients
"Our clinical trial's promising results show this diabetes drug can ameliorate lives of heart failure patients with reduced ejection fraction, enhance their exercise capacity, and improve their quality of life with little to no side effects," said study author Carlos Santos-Gallego from Mount Sinai Hospital in the US.
"Our study also identifies why this drug is effective: because it improves heart function, something that has not been understood until now," Santos-Gallego added.
Importantly, the researchers noted that the drug did not appear to cause hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, in non-diabetic patients.
For the trial, known as "EMPATROPISM," researchers recruited 84 patients with chronic heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (EF) -- the percentage of blood the left ventricle pumps with each contraction -- and randomized them to treatment with empagliflozin or a placebo.
All had baseline evaluations including cardiac magnetic resonance imaging, a cardiopulmonary exercise test on a bicycle wearing a face mask to text oxygen levels, a six-minute walk test, and quality-of-life questionnaires.
Patients received treatment or placebo for six months, with some short safety visits at one and three months.
At the six-month mark, patients went through the same tests.
The researchers found that roughly 80 per cent of the patients treated with empagliflozin showed significant improvement, and their hearts returned to near normal.
This group had a 16.6 per cent improvement in left ventricular ejection fraction at the six-month mark and their hearts pumped blood in a stronger way.
Their hearts became smaller, less dilated because of less congestion and less fluid accumulation in the body, meaning that their heart failure became less severe, and the walls of the heart were less thick.
The study also showed that patients taking empagliflozin had roughly 10 per cent improvement in their exercise levels, a statistically significant difference.
This demonstrated that the empagliflozin group became healthier, could do more everyday activities, and had an improved quality of life, putting those patients at less risk of hospitalization.
"We were very surprised at how fast the benefits appeared with empagliflozin. The patients were already feeling better in the first few weeks of taking it," the authors wrote.