Hitting the road: AstraZeneca launches tour to highlight link between diabetes and heart failure

AstraZeneca is firing up the Airstream trailer and hitting the road to ramp up its education and awareness around the link between Type 2 diabetes and heart failure.

The “Diabetes Can Break Your Heart” national coast-to-coast tour will stop in at least 10 cities and offer programs, including a virtual reality experience, to highlight the symptoms of heart failure and its link to Type 2 diabetes. AZ is currently identifying cities where the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes is high to determine the exact stops on the 2020 tour. The program will be tailored to each city and event with help from local partners and experts.

One constant will be the "Diabetes Heartbreaker" virtual reality experience in which users put on a headset and through immersive gamification get to “feel” some of the most common symptoms of a heart attack—such as edema, exercise intolerance and shortness of breath.

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“Being able to raise awareness of the symptoms of heart failure and be able to diagnose it earlier is a really important goal for us,” said Kiersten Combs, VP of cardiovascular and metabolic disease at AstraZeneca.

“We have a legacy of doing this in the statin space, in the COPD space and right now in the heart attack space with ‘Survivors Have Heart.’ What’s different about ‘Diabetes Can Break Your Heart’ is we’re taking it on the road, where individuals can engage and learn about heart failure as one of the complications of Type 2 diabetes,” she added.

While this is not AstraZeneca’s first Type 2 and heart failure awareness effort, it is the first out-of-home event tour. It’s important to keep pushing the awareness message because the proven link between Type 2 diabetes and heart failure is still not well known, Combs said. Some 50% of people living with Type 2 diabetes may develop heart failure.

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AstraZeneca SGLT2 med Farxiga recently gained its first CV nod in October, winning approval to reduce the risk of heart failure hospitalizations in patients with Type 2 diabetes. That approval lagged behind OKs for rivals Invokana from Johnson & Johnson and Jardiance from Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim, drugs that had already gotten clearance to tout their CV benefits.

AZ, though, is aiming for an even bigger win in showing it can reduce CV risks for heart failure patients with or without Type 2 diabetes.