Following extensive clinical research, drugs affecting the renin-angiotensin system have been used for the treatment of patients with congestive heart failure, myocardial infarction, hypertension, diabetic nephropathy, chronic renal failure and for reducing the risk of developing major cardiovascular (CV) events. This review examines all mega trials (those involving >1000 patients) and smaller pivotal trials involving angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE-Is; 25 mega trials) and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs; 27 mega trials) to provide perspective on the huge database of evidence that has accumulated on the use of these drugs. Our review demonstrates that ACE-Is and ARBs are generally as effective as conventional therapies in the treatment of hypertension, but offer additional cardioprotective benefits in patients with heart failure, and in those who have experienced myocardial infarction. Also, both ACE-Is and ARBs are capable of renal protection in addition to their blood-pressure-lowering effects. Although ACE-Is and ARBs provide major benefits to CV patients, doubts remain over the concept of blood-pressure-independent CV protection offered by both classes of drugs. ACE-Is and ARBs appear to be equally effective with respect to morbidity and mortality endpoints, but ARBs are better tolerated. Considering the available evidence, the combined use of an ACE-I and ARB should be avoided and full doses of either ACE-I or ARB should be aimed for as evidence suggests they provide a greater prognostic benefit.
Keywords: angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs); angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE-Is); blood pressure; mega trials; renin–angiotensin system.
© The Author(s), 2016.