Heart failure drug PBS-listed

2 minute read

Vericiguat is the first in a new class of medications for patients with worsening heart failure with reduced ejection fraction.

Vericiguat (Verquvo, Bayer and Merck) will be PBS-listed for a common form of chronic heart failure, from 1 December.

The first of a new class of heart failure medicines known as soluble guanylate cyclase stimulators, vericiguat treats worsening cases of heart failure with reduced ejection fraction, typically characterised by the heart’s inability to pump a sufficient volume of blood around the body.

This can arise as a complication of heart attack or other illness affecting the heart or due to poorly controlled diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure or coronary artery disease.

Vericiguat acts to relax and widen cardiac blood vessels, aiding in the transportation of oxygenated blood to organs and tissues.

It is not suitable for patients with hypersensitivity to the medication or its ingredients, or for those taking other soluble guanylate cyclase stimulators such as riociguat.

Side effects include hypotension, headache, dizziness and gastrointestinal disorders.

The drug will be available to Australians who have recently required emergency medical attention for symptomatic chronic heart failure with reduced ejection fraction less than 45% and will be used in addition to standard of care treatments.

An estimated 35,000 patients will be eligible for the subsidised medication, for $42.50 per month or $6.80 on concession. Without funding, vericiguat would cost more than $1,850 each year.

“Heart failure is very serious and very common,” said Professor Andrew Sindone, leading cardiologist and heart failure expert from Sydney.

“One in four people die within a year of being diagnosed with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction.”

He highlighted the chronic nature of the disease, which often leads to re-hospitalisation as the heart progressively becomes weaker and unable to perform its normal functions.

“When the body is no longer able to compensate for the weakened heart, the condition worsens and patients can find themselves in a cycle of being hospitalised time and time again,” he said.

“By this stage, heart failure has a huge impact on the life of the patient, their family and also on our hospital and healthcare system.”

Approximately half a million Australians currently live with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction, with around 67,000 new cases diagnosed and 61,000 deaths each year.

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