Millions of high blood pressure patients could be offered simple twice-a-year jab instead of daily pills to protect against heart attacks and strokes
- Patients saw a drop of 10 to 12 points: a 20 percent reduction in stroke risk
- It was announced at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions
Millions of patients with high blood pressure in Britain could soon receive a simple twice-a-year injection instead of daily pills to protect against heart attacks and strokes.
Just one dose of the drug Zilebesiran can reduce pressure within two weeks, and the benefits last up to six months, according to the results of a new study.
On average, patients saw a drop of 10 to 12 points, which experts say amounts to a 20 percent reduction in the risk of strokes, heart attacks and other cardiac events. They also say the injections are so simple that they can be self-administered at home, like commonly used diabetes medications.
The news was announced at the American Heart Association’s annual Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia, and although only a few hundred patients participated in the early-stage trial, the results were so positive that they were hailed by cardiologists as a potential paradigm shift.
Chicago-based heart expert Professor George Bakris, who was involved in the studies, said the idea of ’giving up the burden’ of daily tablets for two injections a year was so popular that his patients were ‘queuing up’ to take it to get medicine.
Millions of high blood pressure patients in Britain could soon get a simple twice-a-year jab instead of daily pills to protect against heart attacks and strokes (stock image)
Just one dose of the drug Zilebesiran can reduce pressure within two weeks, and the benefits last up to six months, according to the results of a new study (stock image)
“If this delivers on its promise, it will represent a huge shift in treatment,” he said, adding that larger studies were now needed.
High blood pressure, medically known as hypertension, affects an estimated 14.4 million people in Britain – a quarter of all adults. However, the condition rarely has noticeable symptoms – and of these cases, as many as four million are thought to go undiagnosed because they have never been tested.
Dr. Manish Saxena, a heart doctor at Barts Health NHS Trust who helped oversee the UK trials of zilebesiran, said: ‘High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes, but many patients remain poorly controlled. Some forget to take their daily medication, others suffer from side effects. This injection is so simple that there is no reason why patients cannot administer it themselves, as they do with diabetes medications such as insulin.’
Mild hypertension can be controlled with lifestyle changes – more exercise and less salt intake – but many with the condition eventually require medication, and this is usually lifelong.
There are a wide variety of drug options. But according to Dr. Saxena, patients can suffer from headaches, stomach problems, swelling of the legs and hands, sexual dysfunction and even hair loss. “This new injection does not appear to cause any significant problems,” he said.
‘A shot every six months is easier for patients and given the pressure the NHS has been under since the pandemic, this is exactly the kind of solution we need to help people stay healthy. A treatment like this has the potential to become a new gold standard.’
Zilebesiran works by turning off the gene involved in the production of angiotensin, a hormone that constricts blood vessels, leading to increased blood pressure. Several existing drugs target angiotensin, but this is the first to cut off production ‘at the source’.
So far, the studies have only involved patients with mild to moderate high blood pressure. ‘We hope that in the future we will see similar benefits in people with higher and more difficult to treat problems,’ said Dr Saxena. ‘Our patients are very positive. They like the fact that their blood pressure can be controlled with very few medications.”