Heart Failure with Preserved Ejection Fraction: Emerging Drug Strategies

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Approximately half of heart failure patients have a normal ejection fraction, a condition designated as heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF). This heart failure subtype disproportionately affects women and the elderly and is commonly associated with other cardiovascular comorbidities, such as hypertension and diabetes. HFpEF is increasing at a steady rate and is predicted to become the leading cause of heart failure within a decade. HFpEF is characterized by impaired diastolic function, thought to be due to concentric remodeling of the heart along with increased stiffness of both the extracellular matrix and myofilaments. In addition, oxidative stress and inflammation are thought to have a role in HFpEF progression, along with endothelial dysfunction and impaired nitric oxide-cyclic guanosine monophosphate-protein kinase G signaling. Surprisingly a number of clinical studies have failed to demonstrate any benefit of drugs effective in heart failure with systolic dysfunction in HFpEF patients. Thus, HFpEF is one of the largest unmet needs in cardiovascular medicine, and there is a substantial need for new therapeutic approaches and strategies that target mechanisms specific for HFpEF. This conclusion is underscored by the recently reported disappointing results of the RELAX trial, which assessed the use of phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitor sildenafil for treating HFpEF. In animal models, endothelial nitric oxide synthase activators and If current inhibitors have shown benefit in improving diastolic function, and there is a rationale for assessing matrix metalloproteinase 9 inhibitors and nitroxyl donors. LCZ696, a combination drug of angiotensin II receptor blocker and neprilysin inhibitor, and the aldosterone receptor antagonist spironolactone are currently in clinical trial for treating HFpEF. Here we present an overview of the etiology and diagnosis of HFpEF that segues into a discussion of new therapeutic approaches emerging from basic research and drugs currently in clinical trial that primarily target diastolic dysfunction or imbalanced ventricular–arterial coupling.

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