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Circ Res. 2018 May 11;122(10):1439-1459. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.117.311588.

Cardiovascular Effects of New Oral Glucose-Lowering Agents: DPP-4 and SGLT-2 Inhibitors.

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From the Division of Diabetes, Nutrition and Metabolic Disorders, Department of Medicine, CHU Liège, Belgium (A.J.S.)
Division of Clinical Pharmacology, Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Medicines (CIRM), University of Liège, Belgium (A.J.S.).


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major challenge in the management of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Glucose-lowering agents that reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events would be considered a major advance, as recently reported with liraglutide and semaglutide, 2 glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists, and with empagliflozin and canagliflozin, 2 SGLT-2 (sodium-glucose cotransporter type 2) inhibitors, but not with DPP-4 (dipeptidyl peptidase-4) inhibitors. The present review is devoted to CV effects of new oral glucose-lowering agents. DPP-4 inhibitors (gliptins) showed some positive cardiac and vascular effects in preliminary studies, and initial data from phase 2 to 3 clinical trials suggested a reduction in major cardiovascular events. However, subsequent CV outcome trials with alogliptin, saxagliptin, and sitagliptin showed noninferiority but failed to demonstrate any superiority compared with placebo in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus and high CV risk. An unexpected higher risk of hospitalization for heart failure was reported with saxagliptin. SGLT-2 inhibitors (gliflozins) promote glucosuria, thus reducing glucose toxicity and body weight, and enhance natriuresis, thus lowering blood pressure. Two CV outcome trials in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients mainly in secondary prevention showed remarkable positive results. Empagliflozin in EMPA-REG-OUTCOME (EMPAgliflozin Cardiovascular OUTCOME Events in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Patients) reduced major cardiovascular events, CV mortality, all-cause mortality, and hospitalization for heart failure. In CANVAS (Canagliflozin Cardiovascular Assessment Study), the reduction in CV mortality with canagliflozin failed to reach statistical significance despite a similar reduction in major cardiovascular events. The underlying protective mechanisms of SGLT-2 inhibitors remain unknown and both hemodynamic and metabolic explanations have been proposed. CVD-REAL studies (Comparative Effectiveness of Cardiovascular Outcomes in New Users of Sodium-Glucose Cotransporter-2 Inhibitors; with the limitation of an observational approach) suggested that these favorable results may be considered as a class effect shared by all SGLT-2 inhibitors (including dapagliflozin) and be extrapolated to a larger population of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus in primary prevention. Ongoing CV outcome trials with other DPP-4 (linagliptin) and SGLT-2 (dapagliflozin, ertugliflozin) inhibitors should provide additional information about CV effects of both pharmacological classes.


empagliflozin; heart failure; mortality; myocardial infarction; stroke

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