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One drug, two major uses?

A drug approved for diabetes may also effectively treat and reverse heart failure in both diabetic and non-diabetic patients, according to research from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

A recent clinical trial showed that empagliflozin, which is marketed under the brand name Jardiance and has been used since 2014 as a treatment for type 2 diabetes, can also improve the heart’s size, shape and function, reduce hospitalizations and lead to better quality of life for heart failure patients. 

Importantly, the trial also found that the drug did not appear to cause hypoglycemia – or low blood sugar – in non-diabetic patients, making it safe for all adults with heart failure.

“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 first author Carlos Santos-Gallego, M.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the Icahn School.

During the trial, researchers recruited 84 patients who had chronic heart failure with reduced ejection fraction, meaning the percentage of blood the heart’s left ventricle is able to pump with each heartbeat. Those patients received either empagliflozin or a placebo for six months.

After that time, roughly 80% of those treated with empagliflozin showed significant improvement, with their hearts returning to near-normal function, the researchers found. Their hearts became smaller and less dilated, they had less congestion and fluid accumulation in their bodies, and their heart walls were less thick so the left ventricle could pump blood more easily. While the group taking empagliflozin started showing significant improvement in just a few weeks, the placebo group either showed no improvement or their conditions worsened over the trial period.

Because of the trial’s success, the researchers said they expect U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of empagliflozin for heart failure patients in the near future.

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