Aims/hypothesis: Sodium glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibition lowers HbA1c, systolic BP (SBP) and weight in patients with type 2 diabetes and reduces renal hyperfiltration associated with type 1 diabetes, suggesting decreased intraglomerular hypertension. As lowering HbA1c, SBP, weight and intraglomerular pressure is associated with anti-albuminuric effects in diabetes, we hypothesised that SGLT2 inhibition would reduce the urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio (UACR) to a clinically meaningful extent.
Methods: We examined the effect of the SGLT2 inhibitor empagliflozin on UACR by pooling data from patients with type 2 diabetes and prevalent microalbuminuria (UACR = 30-300 mg/g; n = 636) or macroalbuminuria (UACR > 300 mg/g; n = 215) who participated in one of five phase III randomised clinical trials. Primary assessment was defined as percentage change in geometric mean UACR from baseline to week 24.
Results: After controlling for clinical confounders including baseline log-transformed UACR, HbA1c, SBP and estimated GFR (according to the Modification of Diet in Renal Disease [MDRD] formula), treatment with empagliflozin significantly reduced UACR in patients with microalbuminuria (-32% vs placebo; p < 0.001) or macroalbuminuria (-41% vs placebo; p < 0.001). Intriguingly, in regression models, most of the UACR-lowering effect with empagliflozin was not explained by SGLT2 inhibition-related improvements in HbA1c, SBP or weight.
Conclusions/interpretation: In patients with type 2 diabetes and either micro- or macroalbuminuria, empagliflozin reduced UACR by a clinically meaningful amount. This effect was largely independent of the known metabolic or systemic haemodynamic effects of this drug class. Our results further support a direct renal effect of SGLT2 inhibitors. Prospective studies are needed to explore the potential of this intervention to alter the course of kidney disease in high-risk patients with diabetes.
Keywords: Empagliflozin; Macroalbuminuria; Microalbuminuria; Sodium glucose cotransporter 2; Type 2 diabetes; Urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio.