Study Finds New Experimental Drug Could Help Patients With Hard-To-Treat Hypertension

High blood pressure is a common health ailment that affects many people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) roughly half of adult Americans — 47% to be exact — have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. This health condition negatively impacts the body's arteries, putting a lot of pressure on the arterial wall, explains Mayo Clinic. When this pressure is consistently high for too long it harms the heart (forcing it to work harder) and can lead to many other health problems (per CDC).

While standard medication is used to help manage hypertension, some people still have a hard time getting it under control. In fact, the CDC explains that about 1 out of 4 adults with hypertension have their blood pressure under control. This also means that 3 out of 4 people may have difficulty regulating their blood pressure.

A new 2022 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine investigated this further to understand how people with treatment-resistant hypertension would respond to a new experimental drug, baxdrostat. Scientists from the study explain to the U.S. News & World Report that high blood pressure is more difficult to manage if the hypertension is caused by aldosterone, a hormone that regulates salt retention.

Researchers found baxdrostat may reduce blood pressure

For the placebo-controlled trial, the researchers recruited 248 patients with treatment-resistant hypertension and blood pressure that was at least 130/80 mm Hg (per The New England Journal of Medicine). According to Mayo Clinic, when a person's blood pressure is 130/80 or higher, this is categorized as hypertension. In comparison, a normal blood pressure level clocks in at 120/80 mm Hg or lower.

During the study, patients were randomly assigned to receive one of the baxdrostat doses (0.5 mg, 1 mg, or 2 mg) or a placebo (via The New England Journal of Medicine). Patients were required to take this new medication daily for 12 weeks.

What the scientist found were changes in systolic pressure (which is the top number in the blood pressure measurement). Patients who received the highest dosage (2 mg) of the new medication saw a drop of 20.3 mm Hg, whereas a 17.5 mm Hg decrease was experienced by participants who received 1 mg (The New England Journal of Medicine). The researchers observed a 12.1 mm Hg decline in the 0.5 mg group, and surprisingly they also saw a 9.4 mm Hg decrease in the placebo group. That's nearly an 11 mm Hg drop difference when comparing the highest dosage group with the placebo group. Study co-author Dr. Morris Brown tells NBC News that the placebo group likely saw improvements as well because they started taking their other medications more carefully.