Novartis has presented data on its new combination antihypertensive Exforge which shows that the drug significantly reduced blood pressure in black patients.

The new multinational data, presented at the American Society of Hypertension meeting in New Orleans, demonstrated that Exforge, which combines Novartis’ own angiotensin II receptor blocker Diovan (valsartan) with Pfizer’s off-patent calcium channel blocker Norvasc (amlodipine), got patients in a difficult-to-treat group - black patients with systolic blood pressure between 160 and 200 mmHg - to healthy blood pressure levels.

In a 12-week study was carried out among 572 black people in the USA, South America and South Africa, the 286 patients randomised to receive Exforge experienced a significantly higher reduction in systolic blood pressure than those on amlodipine alone (33 mmHg vs 27 mmHg). In addition, a subgroup of black patients with severe high blood pressure achieved an average systolic blood pressure reduction of 50 mmHg when taking Exforge and, in some cases, additional hydrochlorothiazides.

“This is the most significant blood pressure drop seen to date in an Exforge clinical trial,” Novartis said, adding that the combo also produced a significant decrease in blood pressure after only two weeks compared to amlodipine alone (25 mmHg vs 19 mmHg). The firm stated that studies have shown that lowering systolic blood pressure by 20 mmHg can halve the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Black patients are at higher risk of developing high blood pressure than other ethnic groups, said Novartis, for reasons that are not fully understood. They are also less likely than white patients to achieve blood pressure control while receiving treatment. The firm concluded by saying guidelines recommend that combination therapy should be used as first-line treatment in difficult-to-treat patient groups but Exforge is not currently approved as first-line treatment.