More potential good news has emerged for Novartis' novel blood pressure pill Tekturna.

Researchers report evidence in the respected Journal of Clinical Investigation that Tekturna (aliskiren; sold as Rasilez outside the USA) not only lowers blood pressure but may also fight artery-clogging lesions that are the leading cause of heart attack and stroke. Tekturna is the first new class of blood pressure medication approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in more than a decade and acts differently from rival medications by inhibiting renin, an enzyme primarily produced in the kidneys.

Renin is the first step in the synthesis of one of the most important molecules in blood pressure regulation.
Novartis claims Tekturna is particularly effective in controlling blood-pressure for periods of at least 24 hours, an important benefit as many rival therapies on the market "fail to work around the clock".

In the latest study, led by Dr Lisa Cassis and Dr Alan Daugherty of the University of Kentucky, researchers gave the drug to mice genetically engineered to suffer arterial disease. On administration of the medicine they witnessed "striking reductions of atherosclerotic lesion size" in the animals' major arteries, including the aorta.

"In my many years of atherosclerosis research, this is one of the most striking effects I have seen on preventing the disease under experimental conditions," Dr Daugherty said. "This contributes to our knowledge of the underlying disease that causes heart attack and stroke."

He added: "Our data shows that renin inhibition is an effective approach to both lowering blood pressure and directly inhibiting atherosclerosis. It will be interesting to determine whether this approach is more effective than the two other commonly used classes of drugs in the angiotensin system; ACE inhibitors and ARBs".

The researchers found that while higher doses of Tekturna lowered systolic blood pressure, reductions in arterial plaque size were achieved at dose levels that had little effect on blood pressure. However, as high blood pressure is a strong risk factor for arterial disease, it is hoped that Tekturna might be provide a double-whammy effect by helping prevent new plagues forming while treating those that are already present.

The Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research in New Jersey were also involved in the research.