A new six-monthly blood pressure injection could replace a daily tablet if a ground-breaking study proves successful.
Scientists are testing the approach in what they said is a world first in how hypertension – high blood pressure – could be treated.
Around a third of adults in the UK have high blood pressure but many might not know it, according to the NHS.
While it often does not have noticeable symptoms, if hypertension is not treated it can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Some 100 patients across the UK will be part of the 630 patients worldwide involved in the new trial by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and Barts Health NHS Trust.
People who are diagnosed with high blood pressure typically take tablets once a day to control the condition, researchers said.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) said while there is not always an explanation for the cause of high blood pressure, most people develop it because of their diet, lifestyle or a medical condition.
This study, funded by Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and supported by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), is due to run for three years.
Dr Manish Saxena, study lead and deputy clinical director at QMUL, said they were “excited” by the trial.
“It is early days but our ultimate hope is that the treatment proves to be a safe and more manageable, practical solution to tackling high blood pressure.
“A twice-yearly treatment with injection underneath the skin would provide a better alternative to taking daily medication, which we believe would be welcome news for patients and make treating hypertension more convenient.”
An alternative to pills
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the BHF, said it could lead to “good news for the millions of people across the UK” many of whom need to take daily medication to lower their risk of heart attacks and strokes.
“The study will determine whether an injection given twice a year lowers blood pressure sufficiently over a prolonged period. If this proves to be the case, it may provide an alternative to taking daily pills for some patients.”