Diabetes drugs may also deter heart failure

Medications typically prescribed to lower blood sugar in diabetic patients may have a dual purpose — to prevent hearts from failing, or so a new study from the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit posits.

"People with diabetes are at risk for developing heart failure," said David Lanfear, MD, cardiologist and lead author of the study. "Diabetic adults die of heart disease two to four times more than those without diabetes. Our study data suggest that diabetic patients taking a particular class of medications are less likely to develop heart failure.”

The study, of retrospective modus, examined 4,427 diabetic patients taking medication to lower their blood sugar between Jan. 1, 2000 and July 1, 2012. GLP-1 prescriptions (glucagon-like peptide-1 analogs and dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors) were administered to 1,488 patients, while the remaining 2,939 took drugs of a differing composition.

Following 663 days of observation, researchers documented 281 hospitalizations, 184 spurred by heart failure, resulting ultimately in 158 deaths. The study cohort took into consideration gender, age, race, coronary disease, heart failure, duration of diabetes, and the number of anti-diabetic medications to determine more fully the role GLP-1 medications could have on heart failure development. On the surface, the study results indicate that GLP-1 medications aid in the prevention of heart failure.

"These preliminary results look very promising," said Lanfear. "However this was a retrospective study and this subject needs further investigation."

The findings were presented on March 10 at the American College of Cardiology's annual meeting in San Francisco. The National Institutes of Health and Henry Ford Health System provided funding for the study.