There’s one thing you can count on with any new medication. The drug company marketing machine behind it will work tirelessly to expand its sales. The goal is to squeeze every last penny of profit out of the med before it becomes old news.
Now realistically, some medications are necessary evils. Others, like antibiotics, are wonder drugs when they’re used responsibly.
But then there’s a third group. They exist primarily to be cash cows. And their risks are routinely downplayed as Big Pharma looks for new angles to push them on an unsuspecting public.
Case in point is SGLT2 inhibitors. If you’re a regular Healthier Talk reader, you might recall that I warned you about this risky class of diabetes meds a few years ago. SLG2s come packaged with some pretty terrifying potential side effects.
But despite those risks (which I will tell you more about in just a moment), it turns out these same drugs now have a fresh NEW target. And that’s folks battling heart failure.
However, if you or a loved one is living with heart failure, there are a few things you should know BEFORE you say “yes” to an SGLT2 inhibitor.
Heart failure patients new target for SGLT2s
SGLT2 inhibitors were a big deal when they were approved for diabetes a few years back. They hit the market with a lot of fanfare.
But it’s not because this new class of medication is significantly better. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Studies show that none of the newer classes of meds introduced in recent years work better than metformin as a first-line treatment.
No, the real reason for all the excitement is that newer drugs are always FAR more profitable. So to keep making hay while the sun is still shining, the drug companies are trying to expand the use of SGLT2s into the world of heart failure.
A new study claims an SGLT2 inhibitor called dapagliflozin can improve heart failure symptoms and accompanying physical limitations with preserved ejection fraction.
The biggest benefit appears to be an improvement in walking ability. As anyone battling heart failure can tell you, this “simple” act can be a struggle when you’re fighting heart failure.
That’s because when the heart isn’t pumping effectively, oxygen delivery slows down. And that leads to weakness, shortness of breath, and more.
In the new study, the volunteers could walk an average of 244 meters in six minutes at the start. But after 12 weeks on the med, they were able to walk an extra 20 meters in that time, or about 10 additional feet per minute.
Some SGLT2 inhibitors have already been getting a big push for heart failure patients. So this new study means that dapagliflozin will likely be joining them soon. And a marketing blitz designed to woo your doc into prescribing the drug is sure to follow.
SGLT2s come with some scary side effects
But you need to know a few things before you fill that prescription.
As I mentioned earlier, SGLT2 inhibitors can have pretty horrifying side effects. Some studies show they can DOUBLE the risk of lower-limb amputations. Which, ironically, would make that walking benefit, well, not much of a benefit anymore.
And in 2019, the FDA warned of another rare but terrifying risk that will make your hair stand on end. SGLT2 inhibitors could cause a form of gangrene that eats away at your intimate areas below the belt.
The reality is heart failure is a difficult diagnosis. Treating it is seldom easy. And depending on your case, your options may be limited.
So you and your doc may decide the potential benefits of an SGLT2 inhibitor outweigh any risks. But it’s important to understand those risks before starting on the drug. And don’t hesitate to ask your doctor questions and discuss other less risky changes you can try first.
For example, last year, a heart failure study found that just 2 tablespoons per day of olive oil for 12 weeks led to small but significant improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness. That included an all-important measure of how much oxygen you can use during an activity called VO2max.
A computer analysis of the same study found you may get an even bigger benefit from 3 tablespoons per day. Other natural options that have shown promise in fighting heart failure are vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and light exercise.
Those, combined with your other prescribed treatments, may deliver just what you need to be able to stay on your feet without having to risk foot amputations and crotch rot.