PEOPLE in the South West suffering from high blood pressure are being given the chance to take part in a major clinical research trial which could herald a ‘new era’ in the treatment of the life-threatening condition.
The ‘WAVE IV’ trial at the Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation Trust is testing a new one-hour, one-off non-invasive treatment which aims to reduce blood pressure permanently, cutting the patient’s risk of stroke and heart attacks and eliminating the need for on-going medication.
Principal investigator for the study, Dr Andrew Sharp, Consultant Cardiologist and Honorary Senior Lecturer at the RD&E and the University of Exeter, said: “The idea that people could have a one-off burst of energy to their kidneys and then live with lower blood pressures afterwards is really quite a remarkable concept and if successful, we would be entering a new era in the management of high blood pressure.”
The first South West patients to undergo the trial’s one-off treatment were recently treated at the RD&E, with patients able to go home just a few hours later. Although the trial does not finish recruiting until October 2016, early tests of the WAVE IV technology have shown that three quarters of patients treated experienced a meaningful reduction in their blood pressure. High blood pressure is the principle cause of heart attacks and strokes and reducing blood pressure lowers this risk.
Now the team behind the trial would like more patients in the South West to take part in the trial – subject to certain entry criteria - to help them gather more evidence of the treatment’s effectiveness.
The treatment targets the body’s ‘fight or flight’ system using ultrasound technology, aiming to reduce over-activity of nerves that are important in the development of high blood pressure. The aim is to permanently reduce blood pressure through a single one-hour treatment under local anaesthetic and the WAVE IV clinical trial is designed to establish whether the treatment is successful.
High blood pressure is responsible for two thirds of all strokes and half of all heart attacks. Despite best efforts to treat high blood pressure in the South West through lifestyle changes and medication, there are still tens of thousands of patients in the region whose blood pressure remains above target.
Dr Sharp said: “Thousands of strokes and heart attacks are caused every year in the South West by the consequences of high blood pressure. At the RD&E and the University of Exeter, we have a large research programme looking for new ways of treating this difficult clinical problem and this international, multi-centre randomised clinical trial will test the latest in this promising line of new technologies.
“Where pills control blood pressure, patients do well, but unfortunately for many thousands of people in the South West, pills are not enough. Many people also do not like to take pills, even though blood pressure lowering medications do so much good for their cardiovascular health.
“The WAVE IV trial is one of seven clinical studies we have at the RD&E involving one-off treatments for people with mild, moderate or severely raised high blood pressure. Its early results are very encouraging but we need more patients to help make our evidence even more robust.
“If any patients in the South West , living within travelling distance of the RD&E, are interested in this or any of our other blood pressure clinical trials at the RD&E, I would urge them to get in touch as soon as possible. If we are able to accept them on to the trial, their contribution could be hugely valuable both to them and patients like them all over the South West and potentially beyond.”