Scientists from Queen Mary University of London and Barts Health NHS Trust are to begin trialling Zilebesiran, a drug that prevents the production of a protein that constricts the blood vessels.
Around one in three adults in Britain suffers from high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, aneurysm and dementia.
Many people take daily pills such as ACE inhibitors, with around 15 million prescriptions for the drugs issued by the NHS each year.
Researchers are hoping to recruit around 630 patients worldwide for a three-year trial, with 100 of those patients hailing from across the UK, and have already enrolled their first patient.
If successful, it could dramatically change how high blood pressure is treated, and help patients who struggle to remember to take daily pills.
Dr Manish Saxena, study lead and deputy clinical director at Queen Mary University of London, said: “We are excited to be trialling this first-of-its-kind approach to research if it is safe and effective for the treatment of high blood pressure.”
High blood pressure costs NHS billions
High blood pressure is responsible for more than half of all strokes and heart attacks, and costs the NHS more than £2.1 billion every year.
Risk factors include being overweight, a poor diet with excess salt and not enough fruit and vegetables, along with smoking and a lack of exercise.
The new drug works by blocking messages that tell the liver to produce a protein called angiotensinogen (AGT), which helps to regulate blood flow by constricting the blood vessels to increase pressure.
An injection-based drug to treat cholesterol was recently tested and approved for use by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This exciting trial could lead to good news for the millions of people across the UK with high blood pressure, 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.”
The study is funded by Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and supported by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR).