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Manitoba study leads to Health Canada approval for new heart failure therapy

Heart health

A newly approved heart failure therapy that uses a drug originally meant to treat diabetes patients could improve outcomes for Canadians while reducing strain on healthcare systems, according to a Manitoba doctor.

The drug in question is called Empagliflozin. It is known as a SGLT2 inhibitor and was proven to be beneficial as a blood glucose-lowering agent in individuals with type 2 diabetes, according to cardiologist Dr. Shelley Zieroth, who led a clinical trial at St. Boniface Hospital for the treatment.

“This was a historical clinical trial. It met one of the biggest unmet needs in cardiovascular medicine which is an evidence-based treatment for patients living heart failure,” said Zieroth.

“It’s the first therapy for heart failure to show benefit across what we would say is a continuum of ejection fraction,” said Zieroth.

Ejection fraction (EF) refers to how much blood is pumped by the heart with each heartbeat and is represented by a percentage. A reduced EF indicates the heart isn’t pumping at its full capacity, while Zieroth explains a preserved EF as a type of heart failure where the pumping function of the heart is fine but the heart itself is very stiff.

With the treatment’s approval from Health Canada for chronic heart failure, Zieroth said it will simplify treatments for patients regardless of their EF score and will improve access to the best treatments.

Zieroth said access to this therapy should result in what was seen in the clinical trial - a 21 per cent reduction in cardiovascular deaths and hospitalizations related to heart failure.

“This improves the prognosis for patients but it also reduces the costs to the health care system as well,” said Zieroth.

Zieroth said heart failure is on the rise, with 750,000 Canadians living with the condition. An additional 100,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.

The therapy has also been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S., and in some European counties.

-With files from CTV’s Michelle Gerwing Top Stories

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