Drugs, which interfere with the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone cascade such as angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, have been available to clinicians for more than 20 years. They are now recognized as a very effective approach to treat patients with hypertension, heart failure, diabetic and non-diabetic chronic renal failure or patients with a high cardiovascular risk. The recent development of angiotensin II (Ang II) receptor antagonist has enabled to improve significantly the tolerability profile of this group of drugs while maintaining a high clinical efficacy. Yet, with the availability of Ang II receptor antagonists, new questions have arisen. Is it still possible to gain in efficacy with newer agents? What is the future of drugs such as neutral endopeptidase (NEP) / ACE inhibitors or renin inhibitors? The first objective of this review is to discuss the clinical implications of several large clinical trials that have been published recently with ACE inhibitors and Ang II receptor antagonists such as ALLHAT, LIFE, OPTIMAAL, Val-Heft, SCOPE, and more recently, CHARM, VALIANT and VALUE. With these trials, we can now define more precisely the role of these blockers of the renin-angiotensin system in the management of patients with cardiovascular complications. The second part of this review is devoted to new drugs interfering with the renin-angiotensin system. We discuss the recent results obtained with NEP / ACE inhibitors also named vasopeptidase inhibitors. Several compounds were or are in development but the experience with omapatrilat has blunted the enthusiasms for these compounds. Yet, vasopeptidase inhibitors remain very effective antihypertensive drugs and there is a great therapeutic potential for these agents provided one can define more accurately the risk / benefit ratio and the clinical indications. Finally, we present the recent data obtained with SPP 100, a new renin inhibitor that is actually under clinical development. SPP 100 has a sufficient bioavailability to induce a sustained blockade of the renin-angiotensin system when given orally to normal subjects. Recent studies have shown that SPP 100 lowers blood pressure in hypertensive patients as effectively as an Ang II receptor antagonist.
Keywords: angiotensin II, renin, ace inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor antagonists, at1 receptor antagonists, vasopeptidase inhibitors, renin inhibitors, cardiovascular diseases