In diabetic and non-DM nephropathy, blocking the RAAS is the mainstay of therapy to prevent progression of renal disease [21
]. ACE inhibitors and ARB have been shown to have a renoprotective effect and reduced morbidity and mortality in patients with chronic kidney disease [22
] However, the strategy of dual RAAS inhibition seems to have different clinical impacts in diabetic and non-diabetic CKD patients. In high risk and type 2 diabetic CKD patients, a combination of ACE inhibitors and ARBs is associated with more adverse renal events [12
]. Although add-on DRIs have been shown to reduce urinary protein in DM nephropathy patients who are receiving ARBs, [24
] a large-scale clinical trial evaluating the effect of add-on DRI aliskiren 300 mg in high risk DM patients who were taking ACI inhibitors or ARBs [13
] was terminated early because of increased adverse events, including non-fatal stroke, hypotension, hyperkalemia and renal complications. However, the potential renoprotective effect of dual RAAS inhibition has not been investigated in non-DM CKD patients. In the current study, we found that add-on DRI aliskiren 150 mg daily safely reduced proteinuria and attenuated the decline in GFR in non-DM CKD patients who were already taking ARBs.
The major difference between the ALTITUDE and the current study are the patient population and the dosage of aliskiren. ALTITUDE study included patients taking ACE inhibitors but the AVOID study and the current study did not. Because ACE inhibitor related cough is prevalent in Asians, most patients who need RAAS inhibition receive ARBs rather than ACE inhibitors in our CKD program, thus, we enrolled patients taking ARBs in current study. In Taiwan, the medical expenditure is paid by National Health Insurance Program, which covers 99.9% Taiwanese population. Currently, aliskiren can be claimed 150 mg (1 tablet) daily. In contrast, patients in the ALTITUDE trial took aliskiren 300 mg daily, and have a higher possibility of hyperkalemia and other side effects.
Similar with previous studies on diabetic nephropathy, [25
] our results showed that the proteinuria reducing effect of add-on aliskiren was more prominent in the high risk group. We also found that the anti-proteinuric effect was more prominent in patients with an eGFR of less than 60 ml/min, and in patients with a urinary protein-to-creatinine ratio greater than 1.8. In addition, we found that add-on aliskiren attenuated the decline in GFR in hypertensive nephropathy patients. Although not reaching statistical significance, our results suggest that add-on aliskiren may have a greater renoprotective effect in early stage CKD patients (GFR
60 ml/min and not profound proteinuria). There was no significant change in mean blood pressure after add-on aliskiren (p
0.263), indicating that add-on DRIs have a renoprotective effect in non-DM CKD patients beyond a blood pressure lowering effect. This finding was also confirmed in several non-DM CKD animal models [14
]. In the AVOID trial, the reduction in systolic blood pressure was only 2 mmHg after add-on aliskiren treatment in the study group.In ONGARTET study, combine RAAS blockade also has marginal effect on the reduction of blood pressure. The patients in the current study took half of the dosage of aliskiren than the patients in the AVOID study. This may explain why aliskiren had less of a blood pressure lowering effect in our study. Although renin inhibitor monotherapy provides a dose-dependent BP lowering effect, [29
] our study and the AVOID trial showed that add-on aliskiren in CKD patients receiving ARBs had a lesser effect on blood pressure.
The renoprotective effect of add-on aliskiren in patients with non-DM CKD has been evaluated in clinical settings in several studies, however all have had limitations. Without a control group, Lopez et al. and Tang et al. demonstrated that add-on aliskiren reduced urinary protein in kidney transplant recipients (n
12) and immunoglobulin A nephropathy patients (n
25), respectively [30
]. A prospective trial conducted by Tsukasa Nakamura et al. found that combination therapy with aliskiren and ARBs decreased proteinuria in non-DM CKD patients more effectively than monotherapy alone, however their findings did not reach statistical significance due to the limited number of patients (n
12 in each group) [32
]. By studying 189 non diabetic CKD patients, the present study clearly shows that aliskiren reduced proteinuria in patients with non-DM chronic kidney disease who were receiving ARBs. Add-on aliskiren (150 mg daily) for six months reduced the mean urinary protein-to-creatinine ratio by 26%.
There are several limitations to the current study. First, it was not a randomized prospective control trial, and the results may have been biased by patient selection and data retrieval. Second, the 6-month study period was not long enough to reveal uncommon side effects. Third, plasma renin activity was not examined in our study, thus, it is unknown whether changes of plasma renin activity are correlated with the renoprotective effect of aliskiren. Even with these limitations, we believe our results are reliable and suggest important clinical implications. The patients enrolled in this study were selected from a registered CKD program, with frequent follow-up visits and the best clinical care, and their medical data were complete. To the best of our knowledge, the current study is the largest scale study to evaluate the effect of an add-on direct renin inhibitor in non-DM CKD patients.