Background: Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is characterized by systemic metabolic abnormalities and the development of micro- and macrovascular complications, resulting in a shortened life expectancy. A recent cardiovascular (CV) safety trial, the EMPA-REG OUTCOME trial, showed that empagliflozin, a sodium glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitor, markedly reduced CV death and all-cause mortality and hospitalization for heart failure in patients with T2DM and established CV disease (CVD). SGLT2 inhibitors are known to not only decrease plasma glucose levels, but also favorably modulate a wide range of metabolic and hemodynamic disorders related to CV pathways. Although some experimental studies revealed a beneficial effect of SGLT2 inhibitors on atherosclerosis, there is a paucity of clinical data showing that they can slow the progression of atherosclerosis in patients with T2DM. Therefore, the EMBLEM trial was designed to investigate whether empagliflozin treatment can improve endothelial function, which plays a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis, in patients with T2DM and established CVD.
Methods: The EMBLEM trial is an ongoing, prospective, multicenter, placebo-controlled double-blind randomized, investigator-initiated clinical trial in Japan. A total of 110 participants with T2DM (HbA1c range 6.0-10.0%) and with established CVD will be randomized (1:1) to receive either empagliflozin 10 mg once daily or a placebo. The primary endpoint of the trial is change in the reactive hyperemia (RH)-peripheral arterial tonometry-derived RH index at 24 weeks from baseline. For comparison of treatment effects between the treatment groups, the baseline-adjusted means and their 95% confidence intervals will be estimated by analysis of covariance adjusted for the following allocation factors: HbA1c (<7.0 or ≥7.0%), age (<65 or ≥65 years), systolic blood pressure (<140 or ≥140 mmHg), and current smoking status (nonsmoker or smoker). Key secondary endpoints include the change from baseline for other vascular-related markers such as arterial stiffness, sympathetic nervous activity, and parameters of cardiac and renal function. Importantly, serious adverse effects independently on the causal relationship to the trial drugs and protocol will be also evaluated throughout the trial period.
Discussion: EMBLEM is the first trial to assess the effect of empagliflozin on endothelial function in patients with T2DM and established CVD. Additionally, mechanisms associating empagliflozin-mediated actions with endothelial function and other CV markers will be evaluated. Thus, the trial is designed to elucidate potential mechanisms by which empagliflozin protects CV systems and improves CV outcomes. Trial registration Unique Trial Number, UMIN000024502 ( https://upload.umin.ac.jp/cgi-open-bin/ctr_e/ctr_view.cgi?recptno=R000028197 ).
Keywords: Empagliflozin; Endothelial function; Reactive hyperemia peripheral arterial tonometry (RH-PAT); Sodium glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitor; Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM).