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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Hearts4heart leads awareness week, amid progress in Boehringer Ingelheim and AstraZeneca therapies

Health Industry Hub | June 24, 2024 |

Pharma News: Heart failure is a significant health concern in Australia, affecting approximately half a million people, with over 67,000 new diagnoses each year.

Coinciding with Heart Failure Awareness Week (24 – 30 June), a new survey by YouGov, commissioned by hearts4heart, reveals that over four million Australians are unaware of the comorbidities that can elevate the risk of heart failure.

“The latest research around awareness of comorbidities among Australian adults is very concerning,” said hearts4heart CEO Tanya Hall, who lost her father to heart failure at age 59. “It is particularly troubling that only one in three Australians (32%) are aware that kidney disease can increase their risk of heart failure. This condition is one of the major indicators of mortality risk in heart failure and can impact 44% of Australians over the age of 75.”

Another comorbidity of concern is type 2 diabetes, which affects 1.2 million Australians. Despite being a high priority on the national health agenda, less than half of Australians (46%) recognise the link between heart failure and type 2 diabetes.

AstraZeneca’s SGLT2 inhibitor Forxiga (dapagliflozin) was added to the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme (PBS) on March 1st for chronic heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (LVEF exceeding 40%). This follows the November 2023 inclusion of Boehringer Ingelheim-Eli Lilly’s SGLT2 inhibitor, Jardiance (empagliflozin), for the same heart failure category.

A meta-analysis comparing Forxiga and Jardiance revealed a significant improvement in preventing heart failure-related hospitalisations, with the efficacy of both treatments found to be “comparable”.

“Heart failure is the leading cause of hospitalisations for those over 65 and costs the Australian health system $3.1 billion annually. Lack of awareness about the health conditions that can increase the risk of heart failure is straining Australia’s health at both personal and national levels,” commented Hall.

Advocacy efforts from hearts4heart and other organisations led to the extension of the Heart Health Check program, subsidised by Medicare, for another two years in May 2023. This program allows people aged 45 and over, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 30 and over, to assess their heart disease risk during a 20-minute consultation with a GP.

According to Professor Andrew Sindone, Director of the Heart Failure Unit and Department of Cardiac Rehabilitation at Concord Hospital and Head of the Department of Cardiology at Ryde Hospital, living with heart failure comorbidities can significantly impact an individual’s physical and mental health. Effective management is crucial for ensuring the best outcomes and quality of life.

“Having these early discussions with your GP can support early detection and intervention of heart failure, reducing the risk of life-threatening complications, including heart attack and stroke,” stated Professor Sindone.

In line with the government’s Scope of Practice Review, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) made a practice-changing recommendation in April 2024, granting nurse practitioners the authority to initiate SGLT-2 inhibitor therapy for chronic heart failure within a shared-care framework alongside clinicians.

The submission by Boehringer Ingelheim will enable 2,250 nurse practitioners to prescribe Jardiance as an adjunct to standard care for adults with symptomatic heart failure, regardless of ejection fraction. It also includes the 60-day dispensing PBS listing for heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF).

“Heart Failure Awareness Week is a hearts4heart initiative, designed to raise awareness about the prevalence of heart failure in Australia, increase understanding of heart failure symptoms, and highlight the importance of early detection to improve patient outcomes,” stated Hall.

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