New studies suggest two type 2 diabetes drugs do not increase the risk of heart attack, but may increase the risk of heart failure.
A heart attack occurs when blood flow to part of the heart is blocked for a long enough time to cause damage or death to part of the heart muscle. Heart failure is a condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to the rest of the body. Both conditions can be deadly. Cardiovascular risks with diabetes medications have made headlines in recent years since the blockbuster diabetes drug Avandia was linked to fatal heart attacks.
The studies focused on the drugs Onglyza (saxagliptin) and Nesina (alogliptin), both in the DPP-4 class of diabetes medications. These drugs work by inhibiting dipeptidyl peptidase-4, or DPP-4, to help the body lower elevated blood sugar levels.
The Onglyza study conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston involved nearly 16,500 patients in a two-year period. Researchers did not see an increase in heart attacks, however they also did not see a reduction in heart attack risk. They also noted a slight increase in hospitalizations for heart failure among patients taking Onglyza.
The Nesina study involved only 5,300 patients. That study showed no overall increase in cardiovascular risks. However some experts say that all DDP-4 medications probably have the same risk factors and the reason heart failure did not surface with Nesina as it did with Onglyza may be because the study was much smaller in comparison.
Januvia dominates the DDP-4 class of drugs with annual sales of about $5 million. Sales of the drug have slowed in recent months after a study showed Januvia may increase the risk of acute pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.