Thursday, June 11, 2009

1st new MOA for hypertension in a decade – and gold prize winner of Technology Innovation Award

While I was in the Philippines recently, Novartis publicized its breakthrough drug Aliskiren that acts at the root of hypertension. According to the report in the Philippine Star:

Doctors have long known that a complex hormone system plays an important role in blood pressure control and is, in fact, the target of several blood pressure-lowering drugs. However, currently available medications act at later stages of this vital blood pressure-regulating process.

After over a decade that saw no new anti-hypertension medication being launched in the market, Swiss research-based healthcare company Novartis AG has developed a breakthrough drug that controls hypertension by blocking a kidney enzyme that can trigger high blood pressure (hypertension), a silent killer that afflicts about seven million Filipinos and nearly a billion people worldwide.

Aliskiren is the first and only high blood pressure medication that inhibits renin, a kidney enzyme associated with the regulation of blood pressure. Unlike other available high blood pressure medications, aliskiren acts at the beginning of the blood pressure-regulating process.

“Renin plays a key role in the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS), a hormone system that regulates blood pressure and fluid balance,” said Dr. Agnes Mejia, a respected kidney specialist and chairman of the Department of Medicine of the University of the Philippines- College of Medicine.

"The RAAS is activated when blood pressure is low, prompting the kidneys to secrete renin," Mejia said.

Renin stimulates the production of angiotensin, a protein in the blood that causes blood vessels to narrow (constrict), resulting in increased blood pressure.

Angiotensin also stimulates the secretion of the hormone aldosterone which causes the kidneys to retain sodium and water. This increases the volume of fluid in the body, which also increases blood pressure.

“The RAAS is crucial in maintaining optimal circulation but its over-activity causes hypertension. A direct renin inhibitor such as aliskiren can help address the problem at its root,” Mejia said.

Mejia spoke on the kidneys’ role in high blood pressure and hypertension management during a satellite symposium organized by Novartis Philippines in connection with the recently concluded 14th Joint Annual Convention of the Philippine Lipid and Atherosclerosis Society (PLAS) and Philippine Society of Hypertension (PSH).

Aliskiren is approved for the treatment of hypertension by the US Food and Drug Administration, European Medicines Agency, and the Bureau of Food and Drugs. Considered by many cardiovascular experts as a breakthrough product, aliskiren was awarded the gold winner of the Wall Street Journal’s Technology Innovation Award for 2007 and declared by Med Ad News as the 2007 Best New Medicine in the US.

Aliskiren is now approved in more than 57 countries. It is a prescription product and should only be taken under a doctor’s supervision.

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