The Role of Calcium Antagonists in the Treatment of Atherosclerosis and Hypertension

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SummaryResults of animal studies suggest that calcium antagonists can inhibit the development of experimentally induced atherosclerosis. Although the biological process underlying this phenomenon has not been fully elucidated, several mechanisms have been proposed. Notably, calcium antagonists may suppress free radical-induced damage of the vascular endothelial cells with the consequent transport of low-density lipoproteins across the vascular endothelium and the accumulation of the lipids in the intima. Studies have shown that calcium antagonists can inhibit the stimulatory effects of epidermal growth factor on intracellular calcium concentrations and DNA synthesis in cultured rat aortic smooth muscle cells, but not those of platelet-derived growth factor or somatomedin C. Further experimental studies have demonstrated that calcium antagonists stimulate prostacyclin production and inhibit 12-hydroxyeicosa-tetraenoic acid-induced vascular smooth muscle cell migration, therefore preventing platelet aggregation and intimal thickening, respectively. Despite the encouraging results in animals, comparatively few clinical studies have been undertaken to establish the efficacy of calcium antagonists in the prevention of cardiovascular disease in hypertensive patients. This, in part, is due to the technical difficulties associated with measuring coronary artery stenosis, but the recent development of a technique for the video-densitometric analysis of coronary angiograms has enabled stenotic regions to be quantified. Using this approach, a retrospective study has been undertaken of the efficacy of long-term treatment with a calcium antagonist on the progression of coronary atherosclerosis. Results are encouraging and a prospective long-term, multicenter trial is proposed.

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