Aims: Use of inotropic agents in patients with heart failure (HF) has been limited by adverse effects on outcomes. However, administration of positive inotropes at lower doses and concomitant treatment with beta-blockers might increase benefit-risk ratio. We investigated the effects of low doses of the positive inotrope enoximone on symptoms, exercise capacity, and major clinical outcomes in patients with advanced HF who were also treated with beta-blockers and other guideline-recommended background therapy.
Methods and results: The Studies of Oral Enoximone Therapy in Advanced HF (ESSENTIAL) programme consisted of two identical, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials that differed only by geographic location (North and South America: ESSENTIAL-I; Europe: ESSENTIAL-II). Patients with New York Heart Association class III-IV HF symptoms, left ventricular ejection fraction < or = 30%, and one hospitalization or two ambulatory visits for worsening HF in the previous year were eligible for participation in the trials. The trials had three co-primary endpoints: (i) the composite of time to all-cause mortality or cardiovascular hospitalization, analysed in the two ESSENTIAL trials combined; (ii) the 6 month change from baseline in the 6 min walk test distance (6MWTD); and (iii) the Patient Global Assessment (PGA) at 6 months, both analysed in each trial separately. ESSENTIAL-I and -II randomized 1854 subjects at 211 sites in 16 countries. In the combined trials, all-cause mortality and the composite, first co-primary endpoint did not differ between the two treatment groups [hazard ratio (HR) 0.97; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.80-1.17; and HR 0.98; 95% CI 0.86-1.12, respectively, for enoximone vs. placebo]. The two other co-primary endpoints were analysed separately in the two ESSENTIAL trials, as prospectively designed in the protocol. The 6MWTD increased with enoximone, compared with placebo, in ESSENTIAL-I (P = 0.025, not reaching, however, the pre-specified criterion for statistical significance of P < 0.020), but not in ESSENTIAL-II. No difference in PGA was observed in either trial.
Conclusion: Although low-dose enoximone appears to be safe in patients with advanced HF, major clinical outcomes are not improved.