More than a quarter of a million patients living with heart failure could be eligible for a new drug that reduces deaths and hospitalisation after medical regulators gave it the greenlight.
It can help treat patients with a form of chronic heart failure that means their blood does not pump blood out to the body as well as it should.
Nice has said the drug should be added to treatments at a cost of £477 a year per patient, with 260,000 patients able to benefit.
It is estimated almost one million people are living with heart failure in the UK which causes an estimated 65,000 unplanned hospital admissions a year. Around half of patients will die within five years of being diagnosed.
Evidence from a clinical trial shows that adding dapagliflozin to standard care lowers the risk of dying from heart disease and decreases hospitalisation or an urgent outpatient visit because of heart failure by 26 per cent compared with standard care alone.
It can be taken once a day as an oral medication and is already prescribed for poorly controlled type 2 diabetes.
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This new treatment could ease symptoms and improve the survival chances for thousands of patients in the UK living with severe heart failure.
“The timely approval by Nice means that eligible patients in the NHS can start benefitting immediately. GPs already prescribe this drug for diabetes, but now cardiologists must swiftly incorporate its use for heart failure.”
AstraZeneca said that for every 21 patients treated with dapagliflozin, one cardiac disease related death, urgent visit to hospital, or hospitalisation could be avoided.
John McMurray, from the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences at the University of Glasgow, said: “This is great news for people with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction, as they will now be able to receive a completely novel treatment for their condition, which, when added to existing therapy, improves symptoms, reduces the need for hospital admission and increases survival.
“Dapagliflozin can make a huge difference for those suffering from this life-restricting and life-threatening condition.”
Tom Keith-Roach, president of AstraZeneca UK, said the decision by Nice meant patients with the heart condition could start to receive the drug quickly.
He said: “Primary care physicians will be able to prescribe dapagliflozin in heart failure following agreement with a heart failure specialist. This treatment has the potential to improve symptoms and extend the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the UK. Working closely with our partners in the NHS, we are determined to help eradicate heart failure as one of the leading causes of hospitalisation and death in this country.”