Patients who underwent complex PCI for acute coronary syndrome followed by 3 months of dual-antiplatelet therapy (DAPT) with ticagrelor plus aspirin fared significantly better by dropping aspirin at that point in favor of long-term ticagrelor monotherapy than with continued dual-antiplatelet therapy in the TWILIGHT-COMPLEX study.
The rate of clinically relevant bleeding was significantly lower at 12 months of follow-up in the ticagrelor monotherapy group than it was in patients randomized to continued DAPT. Moreover, this major benefit came at no cost in terms of ischemic events, which were actually numerically less frequent in the ticagrelor plus placebo group, George D. Dangas, MD, reported at the joint scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology and the World Heart Federation. ACC organizers chose to present parts of the meeting virtually after COVID-19 concerns caused them to cancel the meeting.
“We found that the aspirin just doesn’t add that much, even in complex patients — just bleeding complications, for the most part,” explained Dr. Dangas, professor of medicine and of surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York.
The TWILIGHT-COMPLEX study was a secondary post hoc analysis of outcomes in 2,342 participants in the previously reported larger parent TWILIGHT randomized trial who underwent complex PCI. The main TWILIGHT trial included 7,119 patients in 11 countries who underwent PCI for acute coronary syndrome, successfully completed 3 months of DAPT with ticagrelor plus aspirin without incident, and were then randomized double blind to 12 months of ticagrelor plus placebo or to another 12 months of ticagrelor and aspirin.
In the overall TWILIGHT trial, ticagrelor alone resulted in a significantly lower clinically relevant bleeding rate than did long-term ticagrelor plus aspirin, with no increase in the risk of death, MI, or stroke (N Engl J Med 2019; 381:2032-42). But the results left many interventional cardiologists wondering if a ticagrelor monotherapy strategy was really applicable to their more challenging patients undergoing complex PCI given that the risk of ischemic events is known to climb with PCI complexity. The TWILIGHT-COMPLEX study was specifically designed to address that concern.
To be eligible for TWILIGHT-COMPLEX, patients had to meet one or more prespecified angiographic or procedural criteria for complex PCI, such as a total stent length in excess of 60 mm, three or more treated lesions, use of an atherectomy device, or PCI of a left main lesion, a chronic total occlusion, or a bifurcation lesion with two stents. These complex PCI patients accounted for one-third of the total study population in TWILIGHT; 36% of them met more than one criteria for complex PCI.
In the 12 months after randomization, patients who received ticagrelor plus placebo had a 4.2% incidence of clinically significant Bleeding Academic Research Consortium (BARC) type 2, 3, or 5 bleeding, which was significantly lower than the 7.7% rate in the group on long-term DAPT and represented a 46% relative risk reduction. Severe or fatal bleeding — that is, BARC type 3 or 5 –—occurred in 1.1% of those on ticagrelor monotherapy and 2.6% of the DAPT group, for a significant 59% relative risk reduction.
The composite ischemic endpoint comprising cardiovascular death, MI, or ischemic stroke occurred in 3.6% of the ticagrelor monotherapy group and 4.8% of patients on long-term DAPT, a trend that didn’t achieve statistical significance. The all-cause mortality rate was 0.9% in the ticagrelor monotherapy group and 1.5% with extended DAPT, again a nonsignificant difference. Similarly, the rate of definite or probable stent thrombosis was numerically lower with ticagrelor monotherapy, by a margin of 0.4% versus 0.8%, a nonsignificant difference.
The results were consistent regardless of which specific criteria for complex PCI a patient had or how many of them.
Results Are ‘Reassuring’
At a press conference where Dr. Dangas presented the TWILIGHT-COMPLEX results, discussant Claire S. Duvernoy, MD, said she was “very impressed” with just how complex the PCIs were in the study participants.
“Really, these are the patients that in my own practice we’ve always been the most cautious about, the most worried about thrombotic risk, and the ones where we get down on our house staff when they drop an antiplatelet agent. So this study is very reassuring,” said Dr. Duvernoy, professor of medicine at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
She identified two key differences between TWILIGHT-COMPLEX and earlier studies that showed a benefit for extended DAPT in higher-risk patients. In the earlier studies, it was the P2Y12 inhibitor that was dropped; TWILIGHT was the first major randomized trial to discontinue the aspirin instead. And patients in the TWILIGHT study received second-generation drug-eluting stents.
“That makes a huge difference,” Dr. Duvernoy said. “We have stents now that are much safer than the old ones were, and that’s what allows us to gain this incredible benefit of reduced bleeding.”
Dr. Dangas cautioned that since this was a secondary post hoc analysis, the TWILIGHT-COMPLEX study must be viewed as hypothesis-generating.
The TWILIGHT trial was funded by AstraZeneca. Dr. Dangas reported receiving institutional research grants from that company as well as Bayer and Daichi-Sankyo. He also served as a paid consultant to Abbott Vascular, Boston Scientific, and Biosensors.
Simultaneous with his presentation at ACC 2020, the TWILIGHT-COMPLEX results were published online (J Am Coll Cardiol. 2020 Mar 13. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2020.03.011).
American College of Cardiology 2020 Scientific Session (ACC.20)/World Congress of Cardiology (WCC): Abstract 410-09.
This article first appeared on MDedge.com.