WASHINGTON – Patients with type 2 diabetes and established atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease treated with both an sodium-glucose transporter 2 inhibitor and a glucagonlike peptide–1 receptor agonist had a significant 80% cut in their rate of all-cause death during 1-year follow-up, compared with matched patients treated with an agent from either class alone in an observational, retrospective study of more than 15,000 people in the U.S. Veterans Affairs health system.
For the study’s primary endpoint, the combined rate of all-cause death, nonfatal MI, or nonfatal stroke, combined treatment with both an agent from the sodium-glucose transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitor class and from the glucagonlike peptide–1 receptor agonist (GLP-1 RA) class linked with a significant, roughly 50% cut in events during 1-year follow-up, compared with patients treated with an agent from just one of these two classes, Persio D. Lopez, MD,at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology.
This improvement in the combined endpoint outcome resulted entirely from reduced all-cause mortality. Dual treatment showed no significant association with the incidence of nonfatal MIs or strokes, compared with monotherapy, with rates that were nearly identical regardless of whether patients took one of the agents or both, said Dr. Lopez, a cardiologist at Mount Sinai Morningside and the James J. Peters VA Medical Center, both in New York.
Combining classes for hard-to-control diabetes
“We’re not sure what drives combined use” of agents from both drug classes in these types of patients, admitted Dr. Lopez during his talk. “Our hypothesis is that dual treatment is used in patients with harder-to-control diabetes.”
, who practices in the VA system but was not involved with the study, agreed that this is the likely explanation for most instances of high-risk VA patients with diabetes who receive agents from both classes.
“I have a few patients” on both classes, usually “patients with higher starting A1c levels who need greater glycemic control,” said Dr. Virani, professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and a cardiologist at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, both in Houston.
U.S. use of either drug class, let alone both, in patients with type 2 diabetes is still struggling to gain traction in U.S. practice and remains limited to a minority of these patients, a prescribing pattern reflected in recent VA data.of more than half a million patients in the VA system with type 2 diabetes and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) who received treatment at any of 130 VA medical centers throughout 2020 showed that 11% had received an SGLT2 inhibitor, and 8% a GLP-1 RA.
The most frequently used antidiabetes drug classes in these patients were insulin in 36%, biguanides in 47%, and sulfonylureas in 22%.
These data also showed a striking level of variability among the 130 VA centers, with some of the sites prescribing either an SGLT2 inhibitor or a GLP-1 RA to as few as about 3% each of these patients, while other centers had a roughly 10-fold higher prescription rate for each of about 25%-30% of their patients with type 2 diabetes and ASCVD.
Despite the overall modest level of use of both classes in these types of patients as recently as 2020, no barriers exist at the VA to prescribing an agent from one or both classes “if you provide a good reason” for a patient to receive the drugs, Dr. Virani said in an interview. He also predicted that use of both classes in these patients, including combination treatment, will likely soon expand.