Current Hypertension Reports

, Volume 1, Issue 5, pp 394-401

First online:

Spectrum of use for the angiotensin-receptor blocking drugs

  • Maurice E. FabianiAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, University of Melbourne, Austin and Repatriation Medical Centre
  • , Colin I. JohnstonAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, University of Melbourne, Austin and Repatriation Medical Centre

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The renin-angiotensin system (RAS) plays an important role in regulating blood pressure, and maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance. Angiotensin II is the principal mediator of the RAS and has been implicated in the development of hypertension as well as other forms of cardiovascular and renal disease. Angiotensin II-receptor antagonists are a new class of drugs that inhibit the RAS by selectively blocking the AT1 receptor. These compounds therefore provide more specific and thorough blockade of the RAS by inhibiting the deleterious actions of angiotensin II at the receptor level, irrespective of how this peptide is formed. The increased specificity of action of angiotensin II-receptor antagonists may also circumvent unwanted side-effects normally associated with angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (eg, cough and angioedema) as these agents do not interfere with the metabolism of other peptides (eg, bradykinin, substance P, etc.). There is still some concern with angiotensin II-receptor antagonists and the long-term effects of hyper-stimulation of the unopposed AT2 receptor that is caused by elevated levels of angiotensin II. However, it appears that stimulation of the AT2 receptor may actually contribute to the beneficial effects of angiotensin II-receptor antagonists by counteracting the effects mediated by the AT1 receptor. Angiotensin II-receptor antagonists display great therapeutic promise in the field of cardiovascular medicine and are currently being exploited as new antihypertensive agents. These drugs have demonstrated safety, efficacy, and tolerability; however, morbidity and mortality data are still lacking. Nonetheless, it is likely that angiotensin II-receptor antagonists will become part of the medical arsenal against cardiovascular and renal disease, thus consideration should be given to their future use as first-line antihypertensive agents.