Patients having trouble controlling their high blood pressure have been given a new hope in the form of Novartis’ Rasilez, which has just been launched in the UK after winning approval from the European Medicines Agency for use alone or in combination with other therapies.

According to Novartis, Rasilez (aliskiren) - the first product in a new class of hypertension drugs to be cleared for use in over 10 years - offers a “promising option” for the five million patients with high blood pressure patients in the UK who fail to reach the target of under or equal to 140/90mmHg.

Data presented at a symposium at the European Society of Cardiology Congress this month clearly demonstrate Rasilez’ ability to induce a significant additional reduction in blood pressure (typically between 30%-50%) when added to commonly-prescribed treatments such as ACE inhibitors, and is as effective when used alone, the company said. This is important as lowering blood pressure levels by even a small amount can have a substantial impact on reducing mortality due to stroke or other cardiovascular conditions.

Beyond blood pressure control?

Furthermore, it seems that the agent’s capabilities may go beyond the control of blood pressure; data from the ALOFT trial, also presented at ESCC, indicate that Rasilez can reduce the severity of a heart attack. And importantly, unlike many blood pressure drugs - such as calcium channel blockers and some beta blockers - that can actually worsen heart failure, Novartis said its product demonstrated a good safety and a tolerability profile similar to placebo.

Rasilez has certainly caused a ripple of excitement, particularly as it is currently the only approved medicine to tackle high blood pressure at its source, by inhibiting the enzyme renin, “a long standing goal for scientists involved in developing antihypertensive therapy,” explained Professor Peter Sever, Imperial College, London. “I believe Rasilez is a drug that could help many people whose blood pressure is not currently at target levels,” he added.

A spokesperson for Novartis told PharmaTimes UK News that the cost of therapy with Rasilez - £19.80 for 28 x 150mg pills and £23.80 for 28 x 300mg – is broadly comparable to treatment with angiotensin receptor blockers, a standard treatment for controlling blood pressure.