The usual treatments for high blood pressure include a class of medications called ACE inhibitors, which block production of a pressure-raising protein called angiotensin II. While ACE inhibitors have proven effective, sticking with the drug long term has posed problems for many patients, because of side effects. Now, research led by Martin Bachmann from Cytos Biotechnology in Switzerland suggests a new form of vaccination therapy that overcomes some of the barriers of traditional medications. To create the vaccine, researchers designed a modified form of angiotensin II that mimics a virus, so that the body's immune system attacks angiotensin II and thereby lowers blood pressure. Researchers tested this vaccine on 72 patients, with three vaccinations over a period of four months, and found that people who received the injected drug did just as well as patients who might have otherwise been on ACE inhibitors. "This is the first time a vaccine has worked so well at lowering blood pressure," says Bachmann.
BOTTOM LINE: Patients with high blood pressure may someday get a vaccine instead of popping pills.
CAUTIONS: The research was conducted by a company that would likely produce the vaccine. Also, the findings need to be repeated on a much larger scale to confirm the effectiveness of the vaccine.
WHAT'S NEXT: Bachmann said researchers will test different doses of the vaccine to make sure the most effective is given.
WHERE TO FIND IT: The Lancet, March 8.
BOTTOM LINE: Our expectations of a drug's effectiveness are influenced by its cost; so much so that an expensive sugar pill relieves pain better than a cheap one.
CAUTIONS: Ariely cautions that the study must be replicated in a wider range of settings to determine how other factors, such as the method of drug delivery or the brand of the medication, may affect a person's response.
WHAT'S NEXT: The researchers plan to study the effects of providing medication for no cost, as well as whether patients will stick better to a drug regimen that is expensive.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Journal of the American Medical Association, March 5.