A group of drugs used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure
Angiotensin II blocker drugs, a group of drugs also known as angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), are used to treat high blood pressure (see Hypertension) and chronic heart failure. The drugs may be used to treat people with high blood pressure who also have thickening of the heart muscle or diabetes mellitus. ARBs are also commonly prescribed for people with high blood pressure who have unacceptable side effects from other antihypertensives, particularly ACE inhibitors. Occasionally, an ARB may be used in combination with an ACE inhibitor to treat some cases of heart failure.
ARBs work by blocking the action of the substance known as angiotensin II, which is produced naturally by the body and causes blood vessels to constrict. As a result, the blood vessels are able to dilate and blood pressure is reduced.
ARBs, available as oral preparations, are usually prescribed at a low dose initially. The dose is then gradually increased over several weeks until the lowest effective dose is found.
The most common side effects that ARBs cause are light-headedness and dizziness but they are usually mild. ARBs are much less likely than ACE inhibitors to cause a persistent dry cough and are therefore a possible alternative for people who have to discontinue ACE inhibitors because of the side effects.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.