Hopes are high for Entresto, a drug approved by the FDA to treat heart failure, which affects more than 5.1 million Americans and is one of the leading causes of death in the US. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2014 showed that Entresto “reduced the risk of death from cardiovascular causes and heart failure hospitalization by 20 percent,” according to the drug’s manufacturer, Novartis.
“Congestive heart failure results when one or more aspects of cardiac function is no longer operating at maximal efficiency,” says Alon Gitig, MD, FACC, a cardiologist based in Yonkers with the Mount Sinai Riverside Medical Group. “This leads to an excessive buildup of pressure within the heart’s chambers, which is transmitted back to the lungs, causing the sensation of shortness of breath.”
Entresto, which is actually a combination of the drugs Valsartin and Sacubitril, “represents a major breakthrough in the pharmacologic treatment of heart failure, by targeting a biological pathway that is not affected by any of the current drugs at our disposal,” says Dr. Gitig
So, should patients with heart failure ask their doctors for the drug? “At the moment, there is some uncertainty about how to introduce this agent into the mix of multiple other medications that patients are currently taking,” says Dr. Gitig, who notes that guidelines on treatment of heart failure from major medical societies “have not yet been published with recommendations on how to incorporate Entresto in clinical care, so, for the time being, physicians need to use individual discretion in deciding who are the most appropriate candidates.”