A current evaluation of the safety of angiotensin receptor blockers and direct renin inhibitors
Helmy M Siragy
Professor of Medicine and Endocrinology, Department of Medicine, Director, Hypertension Center, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA, USA
Abstract: The safety of angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) for the treatment of hypertension and cardiovascular and renal diseases has been well documented in numerous randomized clinical trials involving thousands of patients. However, recent concerns have surfaced about possible links between ARBs and increased risks of myocardial infarction and cancer. Less is known about the safety of the direct renin inhibitor aliskiren, which was approved as an antihypertensive in 2007. This article provides a detailed review of the safety of ARBs and aliskiren, with an emphasis on the risks of cancer and myocardial infarction associated with ARBs. Safety data were identified by searching PubMed and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Web sites through April 2011. ARBs are generally well tolerated, with no known class-specific adverse events. The possibility of an increased risk of myocardial infarction associated with ARBs was suggested predominantly because the Valsartan Antihypertensive Long-Term Use Evaluation (VALUE) trial reported a statistically significant increase in the incidence of myocardial infarction with valsartan compared with amlodipine. However, no large-scale, randomized clinical trials published after the VALUE study have shown a statistically significant increase in the incidence of myocardial infarction associated with ARBs compared with placebo or non-ARBs. Meta-analyses examining the risk of cancer associated with ARBs have produced conflicting results, most likely due to the inherent limitations of analyzing heterogeneous data and a lack of published cancer data. An ongoing safety investigation by the FDA has not concluded that ARBs increase the risk of cancer. Pooled safety results from clinical trials indicate that aliskiren is well tolerated, with a safety profile similar to that of placebo. ARBs and aliskiren are well tolerated in patients with hypertension and certain cardiovascular and renal conditions; their benefits outweigh possible safety concerns.
Keywords: angiotensin II receptor blocker, renin-angiotensin system, aliskiren, safety, myocardial infarction, cancer
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