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Breakthrough blood pressure drug faces ban after major health scares
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A breakthrough drug to lower blood pressure causes stroke and kidney problems

A breakthrough drug to lower blood pressure causes stroke and kidney problems. A safety study has been stopped suddenly, and health authorities around the world are considering whether to ban it altogether.
Rasilez (aliskiren) is the first in a new class of drugs known as direct renin inhibitors, designed to lower blood pressure by targeting the renin enzyme - but its manufacturer, Novartis, has stopped a clinical trial early because of the alarmingly high reports of strokes, renal complications and raised levels of potassium in patients.
Researchers at St Michael's Hospital in Ontario have also witnessed these reactions, which mainly occur when the drug is used in combination with other hypertensive drugs such as an ACE inhibitor or an agiotensin receptor blocker (ARB).
Health regulators are considering whether to withdraw the drug, and Health Canada is expected to be one of the first to make a decision.
Aliskiren is marketed as Tekturna in the US, where it has been used since 2007.
(Source: British Medical Journal, 2012; 344: e42).


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