A drug for a serious form of heart failure caused by a stiff heart muscle is now subsidised on the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme for hundreds of thousands of Australians.
From today (November 1, 2023 ), Jardiance (empagliflozin 10mg) is available on the PBS for adults living with symptomatic heart failure with preserved ejection fraction - a condition with a five-year survival rate similar to some cancers, and for which treatment options are extremely limited.
In people with this condition the heart becomes too stiff to properly fill with blood, reducing the supply of oxygen to the body.
The debilitating condition accounts for around half of all chronic heart failure cases in Australia,leaving people fatigued, short of breath and at increased risk of being hospitalised and dying.
Sydney cardiologist Professor Andrew Sindone said the PBS listing of Jardiance on the PBS marked a turning point for a life-threatening heart condition which has proven incredibly hard to treat.
Professor Sindone said while there have been been new treatments for other forms of heart failure, this had not been the case with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction.
"There has been a treatment drought in this form of heart failure,which represents one of the areas of greatest unmet need in cardiology.
"As a doctor, it has been very challenging having to tell a patient that there is little you can do to improve their prognosis," he said.
More than one in four people with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction die within a year of diagnosis and only a third survive for five years after their first acute episode.
The disease is more prevalent in older women, especially those with a history of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and/or obesity.
Professor Sindone explained that while the term 'heart failure' implies that the heart suddenly stops, "it is in fact a progressive, chronic disease where the heart muscle struggles to provide enough blood around the body.
"This results in fatigue, shortness of breath, and difficulty with everyday activities like walking or climbing stairs. As the condition progresses, people can find themselves in a cycle of repeat hospitalisations and at a high risk of dying."
Taken as a once daily tablet, Jardiance works in a number of ways on the body's cardiovascular and metabolic systems, including reducing the amount of salt reabsorbed by the kidneys, which helps to reduce excess strain on the heart.
Eligible patients will pay just $7.30 (concession) or $30 (general patients) each month for Jardiance.
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