Easy Breezy

Easy Breezy

Would you believe there’s a vaccine in the works that may treat symptoms related to negligence and denial?

Actually, it’s a vaccine for high blood pressure, but the basic idea is to make treatment as easy as possible so hypertension patients who aren’t inclined to take their medication won’t have to even think about it. A couple of shots and they’ll overcome the health repercussions of neglecting their medication, or living in such complete denial of their condition that they refuse medication.

Of course, there’s one other reason why folks with HBP might not take medication: They might have a basic problem with being medicated.

Contents under pressure

As I’ve noted in previous e-Alerts, high blood pressure isn’t a disease, it’s more like a fever – it’s a red flag that something is wrong. When a patient and his doctor discover and address the root problem of hypertension, they’re more likely to treat it successfully.

Or they can just medicate and roll the dice on adverse side effects.

Needless to say, that’s the thinking behind a new HBP vaccine that was recently introduced at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA) where researchers offered the results of the vaccine’s first study.

I’ll spare you the details. Let’s just say it was a modest study with modest but encouraging results – the first step toward a big payday for drug company executives if they can continue to mount larger studies with more impressive results and a passable safety record.

The lead author of the study – Dr. Juerg Nussberger – reports that the vaccine was well tolerated. But HealthDay also notes that Dr. Nussberger “has an interest” in the company that makes the vaccine. I think we can assume that he’s not simply “interested” in the company – very likely he stands to enjoy a financial windfall if the vaccine successfully runs the regulatory gauntlet and receives stamps of approval from the U.S. and other countries.

We’re in the money

Dr. Nussberger told HealthDay that the “big hope” is that a patient would receive a few doses and be set for life. And that’s the key right there. What he and his colleagues are big-hoping to produce is a silver bullet that doesn’t require patients to be diligent in taking their medication. When a hypertension diagnosis is made, the doctor could give the vaccine right in the office. Easy!

The president of AHA, Dr. Daniel Jones, is already on board with the concept of the vaccine, telling HealthDay that if the medication is safe, “I can’t really think of a downside.”

That’s a big IF, Dr. Jones.

The HealthDay article notes that researchers still don’t know if there’s an “escape mechanism” that would allow the body to raise blood pressure when needed. (For instance, dehydration can prompt low blood pressure.)

And tucked away at the end of the HealthDay article is this fly in the ointment: In the study, the vaccine caused a small increase in renin levels. According to Medline Plus (maintained by the National Institutes of Health), renin is an enzyme released into the blood from the kidneys in response to low blood volume or sodium depletion. And when rennin levels are higher than normal, you’ll never guess what that indicates: the danger of inflammation, possible kidney failure, andhypertension.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

“A Series of Shots Might Protect for a Lifetime, Researchers Say” HealthDay News, 11/6/07, nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news