Novartis’ renin inhibitor Rasilez can control blood pressure in patients without the risk that symptoms will worsen after treatment stops, according to data presented over the weekend at the World Congress of Cardiology meeting in Barcelona, Spain.

Often when patients come off an antihypertensive medication their blood pressure can rise sharply which, if not carefully managed, can cause a hypertensive emergency which can lead to irreversible organ damage. Many antihypertensive agents, such as the ACE inhibitors, need to have their dose gradually tailed off to prevent this from happening.

Eleven months into a 12-month trial of Rasilez (aliskiren), some patients in the study were switched to placebo. Despite this switch, their blood pressures rose only gradually toward baseline over the following month with no evidence of rebound.

Meanwhile, the results bolstered evidence that Rasilez provides full, 24-hour control of blood pressure from a single daily dose. Patients in the study taking Rasilez alone or in combination with diuretic hydrochlorothiazide lowered their blood pressure ‘substantially’, according to Novartis.

“This may be a benefit of directly inhibiting renin to control blood pressure,” said Domenic Sica of the Medical College of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, USA, who led the study.

Novartis is busily amassing a dossier of data on Rasilez in order to help it make headway in the massive but competitive marketplace for antihypertensive agents. The company is already a leader in this market with its Diovan (valsartan) product, the top-selling angiotensin II receptor antagonist on the market, with sales approaching $4 billion a year. Rasilez could add one billion dollars to that franchise at peak, according to analysts.

The finding adds to the competitive profile exhibited by Rasilez as regulators in the USA consider Novartis’ application to market the drug for people with hypertension. The Swiss drugmaker intends to make a similar application in Europe later this year.