Too much of a good thing: further evidence for the harm of dual RAAS blockade

6 November 2012 (12:00 AM) - Medical Journals, Drug Watch

Inhibition of the renin-angiotensin aldosteron system through the use of Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors has been a major advance in the prevention of cardiovascular and renal complications in diabetes. The ACE-inhibitors were followed by Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARBs) and the direct renin inhibitor aliskiren. It seemed logical to combine these classes of drugs to further suppress the RAAS system. However, following on the negative results from the ONTARGET study (N Engl J MEd 2008;358:1547-59) the recently published results of the ALTITUDE study are another reminder that what seems logical is not necessarily right.

This is the abstract of the paper Cardiorenal End Points in a Trial of Aliskiren for Type 2 Diabetes published in the New England Journal of Medicine by Parving and colleagues


This study was undertaken to determine whether use of the direct renin inhibitor aliskiren would reduce cardiovascular and renal events in patients with type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, or both.


In a double-blind fashion, we randomly assigned 8561 patients to aliskiren (300 mg daily) or placebo as an adjunct to an angiotensin-converting–enzyme inhibitor or an angiotensin-receptor blocker. The primary end point was a composite of the time to cardiovascular death or a first occurrence of cardiac arrest with resuscitation; nonfatal myocardial infarction; nonfatal stroke; unplanned hospitalization for heart failure; end-stage renal disease, death attributable to kidney failure, or the need for renal-replacement therapy with no dialysis or transplantation available or initiated; or doubling of the baseline serum creatinine level.


The trial was stopped prematurely after the second interim efficacy analysis. After a median follow-up of 32.9 months, the primary end point had occurred in 783 patients (18.3%) assigned to aliskiren as compared with 732 (17.1%) assigned to placebo (hazard ratio, 1.08; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.98 to 1.20; P=0.12). Effects on secondary renal end points were similar. Systolic and diastolic blood pressures were lower with aliskiren (between-group differences, 1.3 and 0.6 mm Hg, respectively) and the mean reduction in the urinary albumin-to-creatinine ratio was greater (between-group difference, 14 percentage points; 95% CI, 11 to 17). The proportion of patients with hyperkalemia (serum potassium level, ≥6 mmol per liter) was significantly higher in the aliskiren group than in the placebo group (11.2% vs. 7.2%), as was the proportion with reported hypotension (12.1% vs. 8.3%) (P<0.001 for both comparisons).


The addition of aliskiren to standard therapy with renin–angiotensin system blockade in patients with type 2 diabetes who are at high risk for cardiovascular and renal events is not supported by these data and may even be harmful. (Funded by Novartis; ALTITUDE number, NCT00549757.)