Review of the cardiovascular safety of dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors and the clinical relevance of the CAROLINA trial.
Cardiovascular (CV) disease (CVD) is a well-recognized complication of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and there is a clinical need for glucose-lowering therapies that do not further increase CV risk in this population. Although sulfonylureas (SUs) may be used as second-line therapy for patients requiring additional therapy after first-line metformin to improve glycemic control, their long-term effects on CV outcomes remain uncertain, and a wide range of alternative agents exist including dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitors. Literature searches in PubMed (2013–2018) were conducted with terms for DPP-4 inhibitors combined with CV terms, with preference given to cardiovascular outcomes trials (CVOTs). Reference lists from retrieved articles and diabetes guidelines were also considered. This narrative review discusses current evidence for the CV safety of these agents, describes the long-term CV effects of DPP-4 inhibitors, including effects on CV events, mortality, the risk for heart failure hospitalization, and highlights the need for further research into the CV effects of SU therapy. Although SUs remain a treatment option for T2DM, the long-term effects of these agents on CV outcomes are unclear, and further long-term studies are required. For DPP-4 inhibitors, uncertainties have been raised about their long-term effect on hospitalization for heart failure in light of the results of SAVOR-TIMI 53, although the findings of other DPP-4 inhibitor CVOTs in T2DM and data analyses have suggested these agents do not increase the occurrence of adverse CV outcomes. Based on recent CVOTs and guideline updates, the choice of add-on to metformin therapy for patients with T2DM and established CV disease should be a sodium-glucose co-transporter-2 inhibitor or a glucagon-like peptide-1 agonist with proven CV benefit. Additional treatment options for those individuals who require therapy intensification, as well as in patients with T2DM and without established CVD include DPP-4 inhibitors and SUs. Since few head-to-head trials have compared the effects of different oral glucose-lowering agents on CV outcomes in T2DM, with most CVOTs using placebo as a comparator, the CAROLINA trial will provide important information on the comparative CV safety of a commonly prescribed SU and a DPP-4 inhibitor.