Clinical Pearls for the Treatment of Heart Failure


Drs James Januzzi, Javed Butler, Robert Mentz, and Muthiah Vaduganathan share practice pearls for treating patients with heart failure, focusing on the future of treatment.

James Januzzi, MD: Looking forward, how do you envision implementing therapies in a more aggressive fashion? I’m going to go to each of you to share some clinical pearls about how you envision the heart failure world getting its arms around the need to take a chemotherapy-like approach to our patients in getting them on therapy. Since you were the last to speak Muthiah, I’ll ask you to be the next to speak.

Muthiah Vaduganathan, MD, MPH: I’m going to jump forward, I’m going to look to the future. I think we are looking at an environment in which these drugs are going to be accessible, affordable, easy to administer, and I think we should start to engage our patients and have patients have a more active role in the initiation and titration of these drugs. We can envision a system much like insulin titration, in which at least some patients who are engaged in their care could modulate dosing, could initiate new drug therapy, in their home environments with relatively limited monitoring structures.

James Januzzi, MD: We’ve got a cancer analogy, now we have an endocrinology analogy, that’s great. Rob, what do you think? What does the future hold in structuring rapid titration and getting patients to target?

Robert Mentz, MD: I’m really hopeful on a couple of fronts. One is that we strike this term “consider.”“We’ll consider starting ARNI [angiotensin receptor-neprilysin inhibitor] at follow up.” We’ve got to eliminate that from our vernacular, that can’t be in a discharge summary. We need to start these therapies in the hospital, and I think it’s all as others have highlighted, this multidisciplinary team. We’ve learned about the tremendous success of having a pharmacist who can help a case manager if there’s paperwork and other financial limitations. So the future is multidisciplinary teams, it’s rapid sequence. We’ve got to do better for our patients.

James Januzzi, MD: Javed, what do you think? At Baylor Scott and White [Health], how are you thinking about this?

Javed Butler, MD, MPH, MBA: Robots with ChatGPT.

James Januzzi, MD: Exactly. Someone’s got to do it.

Javed Butler, MD, MPH, MBA: No, I don’t have much to add on top of what Muthiah and Rob said. Let me just take a moment and make a plea to all our listeners. Symptoms should be targets of therapy in heart failure, not a guide for therapy. Things like high blood pressure, diabetes, lipids, these diseases by definition are asymptomatic. We have many cancers that are diagnosed on screening, and that comes as a surprise to patients, they are asymptomatic. We would never leave these patients alone because their symptoms are OK. You treat the biology of the disease. Heart failure is the same thing. Whether you have a lot of symptoms or you have few symptoms, we need to target the underlying biology and treat them aggressively with appropriate indicated therapies. Just because somebody says they’re doing OK is not a reason to not treat them appropriately.

James Januzzi, MD: Absolutely, an important take-home message from Dr Javed Butler. At our institution at [Massachusetts General Hospital], we recognize the need for infrastructure for rapid sequence initiation and titration, even before STRONG-HF trial data came out. We have a clinic called the GDMT [guideline-directed medical therapy] clinic, and it is in existence for one job, which is education, initiation, and titration of GDMT. We’ll either start outpatients or we will take patients who have just been discharged in continuity to get them to target. It’s a 12-week process or shorter. We utilize many of the tools Dr Vaduganathan mentioned, not only education, but home-based titration, including virtual care, virtual laboratory testing as well, in order to get patients to target, because by and large that’s really the most important monitoring piece in this process. Blood pressure matters to be sure, but provided patients are not symptomatically hypotensive, we will continue titrating. We get patients in the office periodically, however, we have a nurse practitioner-based approach but we also have a pharmacist, as Dr Mentz mentioned. In our patients in our GDMT clinic, we are achieving quadruple therapy in over 90% of our patients, with nearly 90% on sacubitril/valsartan, and over 60% on target doses of all 4 drugs.

We’ll close with the point, Rob, in the CHAMP-HF Registry, how many patients were at target dose?

Robert Mentz, MD: This is striking, you can count it on a couple of hands.

James Januzzi, MD: It was single digits. The point is that it can be done. GDMT works for our patients, it reduces morbidity and mortality. We should not wait for initiating and titrating, getting patients feeling better and living longer. Four drugs, 5 pathways, 6 years of extra survival.

Thanks to all of you for this rich and informative discussion, and thank you for watching this peer exchange. If you enjoyed the content, please subscribe to our e-newsletters to receive upcoming peer exchanges and other great content right in your inbox. I’m Jim Januzzi, thanks for watching.

Transcript edited for clarity

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