HYPERTENSION DRUGS: New Class May Be ‘Most Powerful’ Yet
Hoping that it will become "an important new weapon in the battle against high blood pressure," researchers at Monday's meeting of the American Heart Association announced that a new, experimental class of drugs may be more powerful in treating high blood pressure than any of the drugs currently available. The Wall Street Journal reports that two studies released at the meeting found that Bristol-Myers Squibb's new omapatrilat, brand name Vanlev, outperformed the two-best selling medication on the market in reducing high blood pressure. The drug performed particularly well against systolic blood pressure -- the top number in blood pressure readings -- which has been associated with a higher risk of heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure (Winslow, 11/9). Currently, the main classes of drugs used to treat high blood pressure include ACE inhibitors, such as the widely-used Zestril, and calcium channel blockers, including top-selling Norvasc. Vanlev, in the new experiment class called vasopeptidase inhibitors, blocks the enzyme that causes high blood pressure, similar to ACE inhibitors, but unlike any other class, vasopeptidases also protect the body's reserves of chemicals that allow blood vessel to relax and prevents enlargement of the heart muscle. A study of 347 patients with high blood pressure comparing Vanlev and Zestril found that Vanlev lowered systolic pressure nine points and diastolic pressure five points better than Zestril. A similar study of 430 patients comparing Vanlev to Norvasc found that Vanlev lowered both systolic and diastolic pressure five points better than Norvasc (Haney, AP/Nando Times, 11/8). "It's the most powerful oral drug that we have ever had available," said Dr. Michael Weber, lead researcher and chair of medicine at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center. Prominent hypertension expert Dr. Henry Black, chair of preventive medicine at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago said, "It is 15 years since we've had a (new blood pressure) drug that will generate this much excitement." Bristol-Myers plans on submitting the study results to the FDA by the end of the year and seeking approval to market Vanlev later next year (Wall Street Journal, 11/9).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.