According to recent data, nearly 1.3 billion adults worldwide suffer from high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Many of these individuals are unaware of their condition, which can have serious health implications. Hypertension puts strain on the heart and can lead to complications such as vision problems, cognitive issues, sexual health problems, and kidney dysfunction. It is also the leading cause of death globally.
While there are diagnostic tools and approved medications available for hypertension, only a small fraction of patients are able to achieve long-term control of their blood pressure. This is often due to the difficulty of adhering to multiple daily doses of medication. However, at the 2023 American Heart Association Conference, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced promising Phase 2 clinical trial results for a new RNA interference therapy for high blood pressure.
RNA interference is a natural process in which small RNA molecules silence the expression of specific genes. This therapy introduces synthetic small interfering RNAs that bind to disease-causing messenger RNAs, preventing the expression of those genes. In the case of hypertension, the therapy targets the messenger RNA that encodes for angiotensinogen proteins, which are involved in regulating blood pressure.
Early clinical trials have shown promising results for this RNA interference therapy. A Phase 1 trial found that a single injection reduced high blood pressure for up to 24 weeks. In a Phase 2 trial, specific doses of the therapy were able to control blood pressure levels for several months at a time. The most common side effect reported was a reaction at the site of injection.
However, there are still unanswered questions about the therapy. Ongoing trials have yet to compare its efficacy and safety to existing hypertension drugs. The cost of the RNA interference therapy is also a concern, as it is estimated to be nearly half a million dollars for one person. Additionally, its safety and effectiveness for individuals with comorbidities such as obesity, kidney disease, and untreated diabetes have not been thoroughly studied.
Despite these uncertainties, researchers are optimistic about the potential of this new therapy as a more convenient treatment option for hypertension. Further research and clinical trials will provide more information on its effectiveness and safety compared to existing medications.