FDA Approves New Drug, Sotagliflozin, for Heart Failure
Sotagliflozin, a novel agent that inhibits sodium-glucose cotransporter (SGLT) 1 as well as SGLT2, received marketing approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on May 26 for reducing the risk for cardiovascular death, hospitalization for heart failure, and urgent heart failure visits iin patients with heart failure, and also for preventing these same events in patients with type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease (CKD), and other cardiovascular disease risk factors.
This puts sotagliflozin in direct competition with two SGLT2 inhibitors, dapagliflozin (Farxiga) and empagliflozin (Jardiance), that already have indications for preventing heart failure hospitalizations in patients with heart failure as well as approvals for type 2 diabetes and preservation of renal function.
Officials at Lexicon Pharmaceuticals, the company that developed and will market sotagliflozin under the trade name Inpefa, said in a press release that they expect US sales of the agent to begin before the end of June 2023. The release also highlighted that the approval broadly covered use in patients with heart failure across the full range of both reduced and preserved left ventricular ejection fractions.
Lexicon officials also said that the company will focus on marketing sotagliflozin for preventing near-term rehospitalizations of patients discharged after an episode of acute heart failure decompensation.
They base this niche target for sotagliflozin on results from the SOLOIST-WHF trial, which randomized 1222 patients with type 2 diabetes recently hospitalized for worsening heart failure and showed a significant 33% reduction in the rate of deaths from cardiovascular causes and hospitalizations and urgent visits for heart failure, compared with control patients, during a median 9 months of follow-up. Nearly half of the enrolled patients received their first dose while still hospitalized, while the other half received their first dose a median of 2 days after hospital discharge. The drug appeared safe.
Cutting Heart Failure Rehospitalizations in Half
An exploratory post hoc analysis of SOLOIST-WHF showed that treatment with sotagliflozin cut the rate of rehospitalizations roughly in half after both 30 and 90 days compared with control patients, according to an abstract presented at a meeting in late 2022 that has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The only SGLT2 inhibitor tested so far when initiated in patients during hospitalization for heart failure is empagliflozin, in the EMPULSE trial that randomized 530 patients. EMPULSE also showed that starting an SGLT2 inhibitor in this setting was safe and resulted in significant clinical benefit, the study’s primary endpoint, defined as a composite of death from any cause, number of heart failure events, and time to first heart failure event, or a 5-point or greater difference in change from baseline in the Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire Total Symptom Score at 90 days.
In the DELIVER trial, which tested dapagliflozin in patients with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, roughly 10% of patients started study treatment during or within 30 days of heart failure hospitalization, and in this subgroup, dapagliflozin appeared as effective as it was in the other 90% of patients who did not start the drug during an acute or subacute phase.
Despite the SOLOIST-WHF evidence for sotagliflozin’s safety and efficacy in this economically important clinical setting, some experts say the drug faces an uphill path as it contends for market share against two solidly established, albeit dramatically underused, SGLT2 inhibitors. (Recent data document that 20% or fewer of US patients eligible for treatment with an SGLT2 inhibitor receive it, such as a review of 49,000 patients hospitalized during 2021-2022 with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction.)
Others foresee a clear role for sotagliflozin, particularly because of additional facets of the drug’s performance in trials that they perceive give it an edge over dapagliflozin and empagliflozin. This includes evidence that sotagliflozin treatment uniquely (within the SGLT2 inhibitor class) cuts the rate of strokes and myocardial infarctions (MIs), as well as evidence of its apparent ability to lower HbA1c levels in patients with type 2 diabetes and with an estimated glomerular filtration rate below 30 mL/min/1.73m2, a property likely linked to inhibition of SGLT1 in the gut that dampens intestinal glucose absorption.
Sotagliflozin Uptake “Will be a Challenge”
“It will be a challenge” for sotagliflozin uptake, given the head start that both dapagliflozin and empagliflozin have had as well-documented agents for patients with heart failure, commented Javed Butler, MD, a heart failure clinician and trialist who is president of the Baylor Scott & White Research Institute in Dallas, Texas.
Given the position dapagliflozin and empagliflozin currently have in US heart failure management — with the SGLT2 inhibitor class called out in guidelines as foundational for treating patients with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction and likely soon for heart failure with preserved ejection fraction as well — “I can’t imagine [sotagliflozin] will be considered a preferred option,” Butler said in an interview.
Another expert was even more dismissive of sotagliflozin’s role.
“There is no persuasive evidence that sotagliflozin has any advantages compared with the SGLT2 inhibitors for the treatment of heart failure,” said Milton Packer, MD, a heart failure specialist and trialist at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. “I do not see why US physicians might pivot from established SGLT2 inhibitors to sotagliflozin” unless it was priced “at a very meaningful discount to available SGLT2 inhibitors,” Packer said in an interview.
At the time it announced the FDA’s approval, Lexicon did not provide details on how it would price sotagliflozin. Existing retail prices for dapagliflozin and empagliflozin run about $550-$600/month, a price point that has contributed to slow US uptake of the drug class. But experts anticipate a dramatic shake-up of the US market for SGLT2 inhibitors with expected introduction of a generic SGLT2 inhibitor formulation by 2025, a development that could further dampen sotagliflozin’s prospects.
Other experts are more optimistic about the new agent’s uptake, perhaps none more than Deepak L. Bhatt, MD, MPH, who led both pivotal trials that provide the bulk of sotagliflozin’s evidence package.
In addition to SOLOIST-WHF, Bhatt also headed the SCORED trial, with 10,584 patients with type 2 diabetes, CKD, and risks for cardiovascular disease randomized to sotagliflozin or placebo and followed for a median of 16 months. The primary result showed that sotagliflozin treatment cut the combined rate of deaths from cardiovascular causes, hospitalizations for heart failure, and urgent visits for heart failure by a significant 26% relative to control patients.
A Clear MACE Benefit
“The data from SOLOIST-WHF and SCORED look at least as good as the data for the SGLT2 inhibitors for heart failure, and what appears to be different are the rates for MI and stroke in SCORED,” said Bhatt, director of Mount Sinai Heart, New York.
“I believe the rate of major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE) were reduced [in SCORED], and this is different from the SGLT2 inhibitors,” he said in an interview.
In 2022, Bhatt reported results from a prespecified secondary analysis of SCORED that showed that treatment with sotagliflozin cut the rate of MACE by a significant 21% to 26% compared with placebo. This finding was, in part, driven by the first data to show a substantial benefit from an SGLT inhibitor on stroke rates, as reported by Medscape Medical News .
And while SCORED did not report a significant benefit for slowing progression of CKD, subsequent post hoc analyses have suggested this advantage also in as-yet-unpublished findings, Bhatt added.
But he said he doubted nephrologists will see it as a first-line agent for slowing CKD progression — an indication already held by dapagliflozin, pending for empagliflozin, and also in place for a third SGLT2 inhibitor, canagliflozin (Invokana) — because sotagliflozin lacks clear significant and prespecified evidence for this effect.
Bhatt also acknowledged the limitation of sotagliflozin compared with the SGLT2 inhibitors as an agent for glucose control, again because of no evidence for this effect from a prospective analysis and no pending indication for type 2 diabetes treatment. But the SCORED data showed a clear A1c benefit, even in patients with severely reduced renal function.
Mostly for Cardiologists? “Compelling” Reductions in MIs and Strokes
That may mean sotagliflozin “won’t get much use by endocrinologists nor by primary care physicians,” commented Carol L. Wysham, MD, an endocrinologist with MultiCare in Spokane, Washington.
Sotagliflozin “will be a cardiology drug,” and will “have a hard time” competing with the SGLT2 inhibitors, she predicted.
Bhatt agreed that sotagliflozin “will be perceived as a drug for cardiologists to prescribe. I don’t see endocrinologists, nephrologists, and primary care physicians reaching for this drug if it has a heart failure label.” But, he added, “my hope is that the company files for additional indications. It deserves an indication for glycemic control.”
The evidence for a heart failure benefit from sotagliflozin is “valid and compelling,” and “having this option is great,” commented Mikhail N. Kosiborod, MD, a cardiologist, Vice President of Research at Saint Luke’s Health System, and codirector of the Haverty Cardiometabolic Center of Excellence at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri. But, he added, “it will be a reasonably tall task for sotagliflozin to come from behind and be disruptive in a space where there are already two well-established SGLT2 inhibitors” approved for preventing heart failure hospitalizations, “with a lot of data to back them up,”
The feature that sets sotagliflozin apart from the approved SGLT2 inhibitors is the “really compelling decrease” it produced in rates of MIs and strokes “that we simply do not see with SGLT2 inhibitors,” Kosiborod said in an interview.
He also cited results from SCORED that suggest “a meaningful reduction in A1c” when indirectly compared with SGLT2 inhibitors, especially in patients with more severe CKD. The lack of a dedicated A1c-lowering trial or an approved type 2 diabetes indication “will not be a problem for cardiologists,” he predicted, but also agreed that it is less likely to be used by primary care physicians in low-risk patients.
“I can see myself prescribing sotagliflozin,” said Kosiborod, a SCORED coinvestigator, especially for patients with coexisting type 2 diabetes, heart failure, CKD, and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. These patients may get “more bang for the buck” because of a reduced risk for MI and stroke, making sotagliflozin “a solid consideration in these patients if the economic factors align.”
Like others, Kosiborod cites the big impact pricing will have, especially if, as expected, a generic SGLT2 inhibitor soon comes onto the US market. “Access and affordability are very important,” he stressed.
SOLOIST-WHF and SCORED were sponsored initially by Sanofi and later by Lexicon after Sanofi pulled out of sotagliflozin development. Butler has been a consultant to Lexicon as well as to AstraZeneca (which markets dapagliflozin [Farxiga]), Boehringer Ingelheim, and Lilly (which jointly market empagliflozin [Jardiance]), and Janssen (which markets canagliflozin [Invokana]), as well as to numerous other companies. Packer has been a consultant for AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, Lilly, and numerous other companies. Bhatt was lead investigator for SOLOIST-WHF and SCORED and has been an advisor to Boehringer Ingelheim and Janssen and numerous other companies. Wysham has been an advisor, speaker, and consultant for AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, Lilly, Janssen, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi, an advisor for Abbott, and a speaker for Insulet. Kosiborod was a member of the SCORED Steering Committee and has been a consultant for Lexicon, AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, Janssen, Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and numerous other companies.
Mitchel L. Zoler is a reporter for Medscape and MDedge, based in the Philadelphia area. @mitchelzoler
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