Spironolactone metabolite concentrations in decompensated heart failure: insights from the ATHENA-HF trial

Eur J Heart Fail. 2020 Aug;22(8):1451-1461. doi: 10.1002/ejhf.1802. Epub 2020 Apr 1.


Aims: In Aldosterone Targeted Neurohormonal Combined with Natriuresis Therapy in Heart Failure (ATHENA-HF), high-dose spironolactone (100 mg daily) did not improve efficacy endpoints over usual care [placebo or continued low-dose spironolactone (25 mg daily) in patients already receiving spironolactone] in the treatment of acute heart failure (HF). We hypothesized that low concentrations of the long-acting active metabolites of spironolactone [canrenone and 7α-thiomethylspironolactone (7α-TMS)] in the high-dose group could have contributed to these neutral results.

Methods and results: In patients randomized to high-dose spironolactone not previously treated with spironolactone (high-dose-naïve, n = 112), concentrations of canrenone and 7α-TMS increased at 48 and 96 h compared to baseline, and between 48 and 96 h (all P < 0.005), indicating that steady-state concentrations had not been reached by 48 h. In patients previously on low-dose, high-dose spironolactone (high-dose-previous, n = 37), concentrations of canrenone increased at 48 and 96 h compared to baseline (both P < 0.0005), with a marginal increase between 48 and 96 h (P = 0.0507). At 48 h, both high-dose groups had higher concentrations of both metabolites than the low-dose spironolactone group (P < 0.0001). Moreover, concentrations of both metabolites were higher in high-dose-previous vs. high-dose-naïve patients (P < 0.01), indicating that previous spironolactone use was significant, and that steady-state has not been reached in high-dose-naïve patients at 48 h. We found limited and inconsistent evidence of correlation between metabolite concentrations and endpoints.

Conclusions: Lower-than-anticipated concentrations of spironolactone active metabolites were observed for at least 48 h in the high-dose spironolactone group and may have contributed to the absence of pharmacological effects of spironolactone in the ATHENA-HF trial.

Keywords: Canrenone; Drug concentrations; Heart failure; Spironolactone.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Angiotensin Receptor Antagonists
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Female
  • Heart Failure* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mineralocorticoid Receptor Antagonists
  • Spironolactone
  • Stroke Volume
  • Ventricular Function, Left


  • Angiotensin Receptor Antagonists
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Mineralocorticoid Receptor Antagonists
  • Spironolactone