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Renin-angiotensin System Blockade at the Level of the Angiotensin Converting Enzyme or the Angiotensin Type-1 Receptor: Similarities and Differences

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The development of drugs which block the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) has been proven a major advance in cardiovascular medicine. Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, which block the formation of angiotensin II from the inactive angiotensin I, are widely used as first line treatment in hypertension, heart failure and diabetic nephropathy. More recently, selective antagonists of the angiotensin type-1 receptor (AT1R) have become available for clinical use. Accumulating evidence suggests that AT1R antagonists have similar effects to ACE inhibitors in hypertension, heart failure and diabetic nephropathy. Although ACE inhibitors and AT1R antagonists block the same system, experimental evidence suggest that their mechanisms of action differ in several respects, such as increased bradykinin and angiotensin 1-7 levels with ACE inhibitors and AT2R activation with AT 1R antagonists. Nevertheless, the clinical significance of these differences remains largely unknown and, in practice, the only clear advantage of AT1R antagonists over ACE inhibitors is the absence of cough as a side effect. Recent clinical data suggest that combined ACE inhibition and AT1R antagonism offer additive effects in reducing blood pressure in hypertension, in reducing proteinuria in nephropathy and in improving prognosis in heart failure. Further evidence suggests that some hypertensive patients may have a good antihypertensive response with ACE inhibition but not with AT1R antagonism, or the reverse. These data suggest that these two drug classes have important similarities, because they act on the same system, but they also appear to have important differences, which are not only of theoretical but also of clinical importance.
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Keywords: AT1R antagonism; Renin-angiotensin; antihypertensive; nephropathy

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Hypertension Center, Third University Department of Medicine, Sotiria Hospital, 152 Mesogion Avenue, Athens 11527, Greece.

Publication date: February 1, 2004

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