Obesity-related heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) has quickly gained recognition as a prevalent, debilitating, and deadly condition. The current treatments for heart failure, such as beta-blockers and renin-angiotensin system inhibitors, have limited efficacy in patients with obesity-related HFpEF. However, a prespecified secondary analysis of the STEP-HFpEF trial has demonstrated the potential of semaglutide 2.4 mg (Wegovy) to significantly improve outcomes in this patient population.
The secondary analysis of the STEP-HFpEF trial revealed consistent benefits of semaglutide across subgroups with various levels of ejection fraction. For quality of life, semaglutide demonstrated a significant improvement in the Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire Clinical Summary Score compared to placebo. In patients with ejection fraction (EF) of 45-49%, semaglutide led to an average increase of 5.0 points, while patients with EF of 50-59% experienced a 9.8-point improvement. Those with EF greater than or equal to 60% saw a 7.4-point increase. These findings suggest that semaglutide has the potential to enhance the overall well-being of patients with obesity-related HFpEF.
In addition to improved quality of life, semaglutide also demonstrated a significant reduction in body weight compared to placebo, further highlighting its potential as a weight management tool in patients with obesity-related HFpEF. The analysis showed a substantial weight loss of 7.6 percentage points in patients with EF of 45-49%, 10.6 percentage points in those with EF of 50-59%, and 11.9 percentage points in patients with EF greater than or equal to 60%. These findings suggest that semaglutide’s weight loss effects extend across the spectrum of HFpEF and could potentially address the underlying obesity-related pathology.
Implications for Treatment Strategies
The positive results from the STEP-HFpEF trial, in conjunction with the secondary analysis, have potential implications for the management of obesity-related HFpEF. The accompanying editorial emphasizes the transformative nature of semaglutide and other incretin-based therapeutics in the treatment of this condition. Furthermore, the authors suggest that semaglutide could serve as a cornerstone of obesity-related HFpEF management strategies, marking a paradigm shift in the field.
While the weight loss effects of semaglutide are well-documented, the analysis raises questions about whether its benefits extend beyond mere weight reduction. The observed decrease in NT-proBNP levels across all EF categories suggests that semaglutide possesses pharmacological actions that go beyond its weight loss properties. This finding provides intriguing insights into the potential mechanisms underlying semaglutide’s positive effects in patients with obesity-related HFpEF.
The study’s discussant highlighted the need for further research to understand whether semaglutide’s benefits are solely attributable to weight loss or if the drug has additional pharmacological actions that contribute to its clinical efficacy. If semaglutide indeed possesses other beneficial actions, it opens up new avenues for its use in non-obese patients and different types of heart failure.
Moreover, the study warrants investigation into alternative treatments such as diet modifications, exercise, and novel oral GLP-1 receptor agonists. The potential benefits of pharmacological therapies like orforglipron, tirzepatide (Mounjaro), and retatrutide, which target different receptors involved in weight and metabolism regulation, should also be explored.
Reassurance of Safety
The safety profile of semaglutide is of paramount importance in order to establish its role in the management of obesity-related HFpEF. The secondary analysis of the STEP-HFpEF trial provided vital reassurance by demonstrating the safety of semaglutide across patients with below-normal EF values. This finding expands the potential application of semaglutide in a broader range of HFpEF patients and reinforces its favorable risk-benefit profile.
Semaglutide’s effectiveness in improving outcomes and quality of life, coupled with its weight loss effects, presents a breakthrough in the management of obesity-related HFpEF. The findings of the STEP-HFpEF trial and its secondary analysis suggest that semaglutide has the potential to revolutionize the approach to treating this prevalent and debilitating phenotype. Further investigations are warranted to unravel the underlying mechanisms of semaglutide’s action and to explore other promising therapeutic options. The medical community eagerly anticipates future studies to establish the full extent of semaglutide’s benefits and its place in the management of obesity-related heart failure.