Swiss drugs giant Novartis has presented data which shows that patients who took a combination of its antihypertensives Tekturna and Diovan experienced greater reductions in blood pressure levels than those using either treatment alone.

Data from the eight-week trial, which involved 1,800 patients were presented at the American College of Cardiology in New Orleans. It revealed that half the patients taking both the recently-approved Tekturna (aliskiren) and the more established Diovan (valsartan) saw a reduction in blood pressure to the target of 140/90 mmHg, higher levels than seen in patients taking either of the medicines alone.

"In addition to important blood pressure lowering, the combination of Tekturna and Diovan maintained a tolerability profile similar to that seen with either agent alone," said Suzanne Oparil, head of the University of Alabama's vascular biology and hypertension programme.

A second study presented at the meeting compared aliskiren to ramipril, an ACE inhibitor and results showed more patients treated with Tekturna reached their blood pressure goal than those treated with the ramipril-based therapy (61.4% vs. 53.1% respectively).

The news is a boost for Tekturna, which was co-developed by Swiss biotechnology firm Speedel and was approved earlier this month in the USA, is seen as the successor to blockbuster Diovan, whose patent expires in 2012. It is the first in a new class of drugs called direct renin inhibitors and the first new type of medicine in more than a decade for treating high blood pressure.