Empagliflozin for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: An Overview of Phase 3 Clinical Trials

Matthew J Levine
Current Diabetes Reviews 2017, 13 (4): 405-423

INTRODUCTION: Sodium glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors have a unique mechanism of action leading to excretion of glucose in the urine and subsequent lowering of plasma glucose. This mechanism is independent of β-cell function; thus, these agents are effective treatment for type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) at theoretically any disease stage. This class should not confer an additional risk of hypoglycemia (unless combined with insulin or an insulin secretagogue) and has the potential to be combined with other classes of glucose-lowering agents. Empagliflozin is one of three currently approved SGLT2 inhibitors in the United States, and has shown a favorable benefit-risk ratio in phase 3 clinical trials as monotherapy and as add-on to other glucose-lowering therapy in broad patient populations. In addition to its glucose-lowering effects, empagliflozin has been shown to reduce body weight and blood pressure without a compensatory increase in heart rate. Moreover, on top of standard of care, empagliflozin is the first glucoselowering agent to demonstrate cardiovascular risk reduction in patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease in a prospective outcomes trial: a 14% reduction in risk of the 3-point composite endpoint of death from cardiovascular causes, nonfatal myocardial infarction, or nonfatal stroke. Like other SGLT2 inhibitors, empagliflozin is associated with a higher rate of genital mycotic infections than placebo and has the potential for volume depletion-associated events.

CONCLUSION: This review summarizes the empagliflozin phase 3 clinical trials program and its potential significance in the treatment of patients with T2DM. Evidence from these clinical trials show reductions in glycated hemoglobin (-0.59 to -0.82%) with a low risk of hypoglycemia except when used with insulin or insulin secretagogues, and moderate reductions in body weight (-2.1 to - 2.5 kg) and systolic blood pressure (-2.9 to -5.2 mm Hg), thus supporting the use of empagliflozin as monotherapy or in addition to other glucose-lowering agents. In addition, evidence from the recent EMPA-REG OUTCOME study, which demonstrated relative risk reductions in major adverse cardiac events (14%), cardiovascular mortality (38%) and all-cause mortality (32%), as well as hospitalization for heart failure (36%), supports use of empagliflozin in patients with T2DM and increased cardiovascular risk.

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