New Rx Shows Promise for Pulmonary Hypertension

Selexipag may treat pulmonary arterial hypertension

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh

(RxWiki News) Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) can make everyday activities difficult. But a new treatment may be on the horizon.

Only days after selexipag (brand name Uptravi) got approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a new study was published showing the drug's potential for treating PAH. This study found that selexipag successfully cut the rates of hospitalization and worsening symptoms among PAH patients by 40 percent compared to placebo.

Actelion Pharmaceuticals, the maker of selexipag, said the drug is expected to become available to patients in the US in early January 2016.

PAH is a condition marked by abnormally high blood pressure in the blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the lungs. This condition often leads to life-threatening heart failure.

Selexipag works to target a known disease pathway that opens blood vessels to the lungs and improves heart function. This treatment is easier to use than other PAH treatments delivered by infusion or injection.

"For more than two decades we’ve targeted the prostacyclin pathway to induce vasodilation in these blood vessels in the lung,” said lead study author Vallerie McLaughlin, MD, the director of the U of M Pulmonary Hypertension Program, in a press release. "Having an oral medication to attack the disease pathway will be a major advancement because less ill patients will be willing to begin this therapy."

For this study, Dr. McLaughlin and team looked at 1,156 PAH patients from 39 countries in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. These patients were randomly assigned to a placebo or selexipag for about one year.

The most common negative side effects of selexipag included headache, diarrhea, nausea and jaw pain.

This study was published Dec. 24 in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Actelion funded this research. Several study authors disclosed ties to companies that make products used in the treatment of PAH.

Review Date: 
December 24, 2015
Last Updated:
December 28, 2015