for people ages 18 years and up (full criteria)
at San Francisco, California
study started
completion around
Principal Investigator
by Colette DeJong, MDPriscilla Hsue, MD
Headshot of Colette DeJong
Colette DeJong
Headshot of Priscilla Hsue
Priscilla Hsue



A novel four-drug regimen for heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF) extends patients' life expectancy by an average of 6 years compared to traditional therapies, in addition to improving quality of life. Unfortunately, uptake of this complex multi-drug regimen has been low, especially among underserved communities with barriers to medication adherence. Although combination tablets have transformed access to care for conditions such as HIV and tuberculosis, no combination pill is available for HFrEF.

In the proposed study, the investigators will utilize inexpensive over-encapsulation techniques to develop a novel combination pill ("polypill") for patients with HFrEF. In Aim 1, the investigators will conduct stakeholder interviews with patients, providers, and pharmacists to inform the design of a HFrEF polypill. In Aim 2, the investigators will conduct a pilot, single-center, crossover randomized clinical trial to investigate whether, compared to usual care, a HFrEF polypill increases medication adherence among 40 adults with HFrEF. Given the high daily pill burden among patients both with HIV and HFrEF, the investigators aim to recruit an HIV+ subgroup (~20 participants) and an HIV- subgroup (~20 participants).

Official Title

Developing a Heart Failure Polypill to Improve Outcomes at a Safety Net Hospital: A Pilot Crossover Randomized Controlled Trial


Hypothesis: Compared with usual care, a HFrEF polypill implementation strategy will increase adherence to guideline-directed medical therapy (GDMT) at 4 and 8 weeks and reduce total daily pill burden among patients with HFrEF, with no increase in serious adverse events.

Rationale: HFrEF among PWH is associated with a high pill burden, which adversely impacts adherence. Over-encapsulation is an inexpensive and replicable method to combine tablets into a single capsule. However, the role of over-encapsulation to reduce pill burden among adults with HIV and HFrEF is unknown.

Design: Pilot phase II open-label randomized trial with a 2x2 crossover design (AB/BA) Participants: Participants will be assessed for eligibility at outpatient cardiology visits at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (ZSFG), leveraging the Epic-based health information technology system to identify potentially eligible participants. Participants will be eligible if they are ≥ 18 years old and carry a diagnosis of heart failure, with echocardiographic or MRI evidence of reduced ejection fraction (≤45%). The investigators will recruit HIV positive and HIV negative patient subgroups. Patients will be excluded if they have contraindications to any of the components of GDMT (for example, pregnancy, medication allergy, or history of hyperkalemia). After obtaining informed consent at an initial screening visit, eligible participants will be randomized to the AB group or BA group using a random number generator via REDcap.

Intervention: The intervention will be pharmacy-level over-encapsulation of once-daily heart failure medications (beta blocker, SGLT2 inhibitor, and mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist) into a single capsule. For some patients, a diuretic and once-daily ACE inhibitor or angiotensin receptor blocker may also be included if capsule size allows. Any twice-daily HFrEF medications, such as sacubitril/valsartan, will be omitted from the polypill and will continue to be filled individually. the investigators will partner with a community pharmacy with proficiency in over-encapsulation and over 20 years' experience working with ZSFG to deliver adherence interventions.

For patients in the polypill arm, heart failure medications will be filled as usual, but rather than dispensing each medication separately, the pharmacy technician will hand-pack all once-daily heart failure medications into a small capsule. The doses will be individualized to the patient based on their physician's prescription. Thus, the polypill will be a late-stage implementation intervention to reduce pill burden, without restricting dose possibilities or interfering with medication titration.

Prior to randomization, participants who are not already prescribed a beta blocker, SGLT2 inhibitor (SGLT2i), and mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist (MRA) will be initiated on these medications at starting doses if no contraindications exist. Half of the participants will then be randomized to the AB group (polypill for 2 months, then usual care for 2 months). The other half of participants will be randomized to the BA group (usual care for 2 months, then polypill for 2 months). After randomization, participants assigned to receive the polypill up-front will be delivered 30-day supplies of the polypill via their preferred delivery method (mail, pick up at a ZSFG clinic, or pick up at the pharmacy). Participants assigned to usual care will be mailed or pick up their existing heart failure medications as individual pills.

At trial follow-up visits at 4, 8, 12, and 16 weeks, participants will be assessed for outcomes and adverse events and will undergo lab monitoring. Medication doses may be titrated at these visits if clinically indicated. Participants in the AB and BA arms will have the same follow-up schedule, and can opt to receive refills of their medications by mail or in clinic. Participants will receive gift certificates for each visit, with an additional gift certificate if blood draws are needed. Bus tokens or other transportation vouchers will also be provided. At the conclusion of the study, the investigators will perform semi-structured exit interviews with participants, clinicians, and pharmacists. The investigators will use prepared interview guides, and will offer gift cards for participation in a 30-60 minute exit interview. Investigators will elicit stakeholders' experiences with the polypill, barriers encountered, preferences for trade-offs between pill size and number of pills, perceptions about taking polypills vs. the individual components, and experience working with the pharmacy for medication delivery.


Heart Failure With Reduced Ejection Fraction, HIV Infections, Medication adherence, Polypill, Heart Failure, Heart failure polypill


You can join if…

Open to people ages 18 years and up

  • Age > 18 years old
  • Previously diagnosed with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction ( <40% by echocardiogram or cardiac MRI)
  • With or without a prior diagnosis of HIV (HIV+ and HIV- subgroups)
  • Able to conveniently obtain medications through one of 3 available mechanisms (mail, pick up at a ZSFG clinic, or pick up at our pharmacy partner)

You CAN'T join if...

  • Patients who are not fluent in English. These patients are excluded from this small pilot trial for feasibility reasons (i.e. access to medical interpreters)
  • Patients who have dementia or lack capacity
  • Patients who are incarcerated
  • Patients who cannot provide informed consent
  • Patients with contraindications to any of the components of GDMT (for example, pregnancy or breastfeeding, medication allergy, CKD with eGFR < 30, or history of hyperkalemia)


  • Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital
    San Francisco California 94110 United States

Lead Scientists at UCSF

  • Colette DeJong, MD
    ACGME/ABMS Fellow, Medicine, School of Medicine. Authored (or co-authored) 35 research publications
  • Priscilla Hsue, MD
    Dr. Hsue trained in Internal Medicine in the Molecular Medicine Training Program at UC San Francisco and in Cardiovascular Medicine at UC San Francisco. She served as Chief Cardiology Fellow during this time. She has been on the faculty in the Department of Medicine at San Francisco General Hospital since 2002.


not yet accepting patients
Start Date
Completion Date
University of California, San Francisco
Phase 2 research study
Study Type
Expecting 40 study participants
Last Updated