Patients with pulmonary hypertension can look at treprostinil and breathe a sigh of relief. For years, this type of hypertension has been managed by a limited choice of treatment options such as oxygen, vasodilators and prostaglandins. These two treatment options are used to “open up” the arteries which results in reduced pressure in the blood vessels. Treprostinil belongs to the prostaglandin class of drugs, and acts by inhibiting prostaglandin production in the body. Since the body reacts to inflammation by releasing prostaglandins to signal distress, the drug treprostinil inhibits their release in the affected blood vessels of patients with pulmonary hypertension. The disease mechanism is not fully understood; however, several factors are cited in the eventual swelling of the arteries which limit the oxygen supply to certain vital organs that ultimately lead to increased blood pressure in these vessels.
Scientists have not fully understood the mechanism behind pulmonary hypertension, therefore limiting the therapeutic approaches to pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic treatments. The disease is incurable; however, scientists at UCLA have instead focused their studies on improving the quality of life of its long time sufferers. The multicenter, randomized trial tested 470 patients with treprostinil infusion and compared its results with placebo. The patients’ responses to the drug were measured by their ability to perform basic physical activities such as walking. The results showed significant improvement in alleviation of symptoms (reduced incidence of shortness of breath) while performing the physical activities. Also, when hemodynamic parameters were assessed, the patients on treprostinil showed less vascular resistance, an important indicator of decreased arterial inflammation. The study has certainly paved the way for improving the day to day functionality of patients living with this disease.
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