May 23, 2017
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Mechanism Of Action

Angiotensin II is formed from angiotensin I in a reaction catalyzed by angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE, kininase II). Angiotensin II is the principal pressor agent of the renin-angiotensin system, with effects that include vasoconstriction, stimulation of synthesis and release of aldosterone, cardiac stimulation, and renal reabsorption of sodium. Candesartan blocks the vasoconstrictor and aldosterone-secreting effects of angiotensin II by selectively blocking the binding of angiotensin II to the AT1 receptor in many tissues, such as vascular smooth muscle and the adrenal gland. Its action is, therefore, independent of the pathways for angiotensin II synthesis.

There is also an AT2 receptor found in many tissues, but AT2 is not known to be associated with cardiovascular homeostasis. Candesartan has much greater affinity ( > 10,000-fold) for the AT1 receptor than for the AT2 receptor.

Blockade of the renin-angiotensin system with ACE inhibitors, which inhibit the biosynthesis of angiotensin II from angiotensin I, is widely used in the treatment of hypertension. ACE inhibitors also inhibit the degradation of bradykinin, a reaction also catalyzed by ACE. Because candesartan does not inhibit ACE (kininase II), it does not affect the response to bradykinin. Whether this difference has clinical relevance is not yet known. Candesartan does not bind to or block other hormone receptors or ion channels known to be important in cardiovascular regulation.

Blockade of the angiotensin II receptor inhibits the negative regulatory feedback of angiotensin II on renin secretion, but the resulting increased plasma renin activity and angiotensin II circulating levels do not overcome the effect of candesartan on blood pressure.


Candesartan inhibits the pressor effects of angiotensin II infusion in a dose-dependent manner. After 1 week of once daily dosing with 8 mg of candesartan cilexetil, the pressor effect was inhibited by approximately 90% at peak with approximately 50% inhibition persisting for 24 hours.

Plasma concentrations of angiotensin I and angiotensin II, and plasma renin activity (PRA), increased in a dose-dependent manner after single and repeated administration of candesartan cilexetil to healthy subjects, hypertensive, and heart failure patients. ACE activity was not altered in healthy subjects after repeated candesartan cilexetil administration. The once-daily administration of up to 16 mg of candesartan cilexetil to healthy subjects did not influence plasma aldosterone concentrations, but a decrease in the plasma concentration of aldosterone was observed when 32 mg of candesartan cilexetil was administered to hypertensive patients. In spite of the effect of candesartan cilexetil on aldosterone secretion, very little effect on serum potassium was observed.



In multiple-dose studies with hypertensive patients, there were no clinically significant changes in metabolic function, including serum levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, or uric acid. In a 12-week study of 161 patients with non-insulin-dependent (type 2) diabetes mellitus and hypertension, there was no change in the level of HbA1c.

Heart Failure

In heart failure patients, candesartan ≥ 8 mg resulted in decreases in systemic vascular resistance and pulmonary capillary wedge pressure.



The volume of distribution of candesartan is 0.13 L/kg. Candesartan is highly bound to plasma proteins ( > 99%) and does not penetrate red blood cells. The protein binding is constant at candesartan plasma concentrations well above the range achieved with recommended doses. In rats, it has been demonstrated that candesartan crosses the blood-brain barrier poorly, if at all. It has also been demonstrated in rats that candesartan passes across the placental barrier and is distributed in the fetus.

Metabolism and Excretion

Because candesartan is not significantly metabolized by the cytochrome P450 system and at therapeutic concentrations has no effects on P450 enzymes, interactions with drugs that inhibit or are metabolized by those enzymes would not be expected.

Total plasma clearance of candesartan is 0.37 mL/min/kg, with a renal clearance of 0.19 mL/min/kg. When candesartan is administered orally, about 26% of the dose is excreted unchanged in urine. Following an oral dose of 14C-labeled candesartan cilexetil, approximately 33% of radioactivity is recovered in urine and approximately 67% in feces. Following an intravenous dose of 14C-labeled candesartan, approximately 59% of radioactivity is recovered in urine and approximately 36% in feces. Biliary excretion contributes to the elimination of candesartan.


Candesartan cilexetil is rapidly and completely bioactivated by ester hydrolysis during absorption from the gastrointestinal tract to candesartan, a selective AT1 subtype angiotensin II receptor antagonist. Candesartan is mainly excreted unchanged in urine and feces (via bile). It undergoes minor hepatic metabolism by O-deethylation to an inactive metabolite. The elimination half-life of candesartan is approximately 9 hours. After single and repeated administration, the pharmacokinetics of candesartan are linear for oral doses up to 32 mg of candesartan cilexetil. Candesartan and its inactive metabolite do not accumulate in serum upon repeated once-daily dosing.

Following administration of candesartan cilexetil, the absolute bioavailability of candesartan was estimated to be 15%. After tablet ingestion, the peak serum concentration (Cmax) is reached after 3 to 4 hours. Food with a high fat content does not affect the bioavailability of candesartan after candesartan cilexetil administration.


In children 1 to 17 years of age, plasma levels are greater than 10–fold higher at peak (approximately 4 hours) than 24 hours after a single dose.

Children 1 to < 6 years of age, given 0.2 mg/kg had exposure similar to adults given 8 mg.

Children > 6 years of age had exposure similar to adults given the same dose.

The pharmacokinetics (Cmax and AUC) were not modified by age, sex or body weight.

Candesartan cilexetil pharmacokinetics have not been investigated in pediatric patients less than 1 year of age.

From the dose-ranging studies of candesartan cilexetil, there was a dose related increase in plasma candesartan concentrations.

The renin-angiotensin system (RAS) plays a critical role in kidney development. RAS blockade has been shown to lead to abnormal kidney development in very young mice. Children < 1 year of age must not receive ATACAND. Administering drugs that act directly on the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) can alter normal renal development.

Geriatric and Sex

The pharmacokinetics of candesartan have been studied in the elderly ( ≥ 65 years) and in both sexes. The plasma concentration of candesartan was higher in the elderly (Cmax was approximately 50% higher, and AUC was approximately 80% higher) compared to younger subjects administered the same dose. The pharmacokinetics of candesartan were linear in the elderly, and candesartan and its inactive metabolite did not accumulate in the serum of these subjects upon repeated, once-daily administration. No initial dosage adjustment is necessary [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION]. There is no difference in the pharmacokinetics of candesartan between male and female subjects.

Renal Insufficiency

In hypertensive patients with renal insufficiency, serum concentrations of candesartan were elevated. After repeated dosing, the AUC and Cmax were approximately doubled in patients with severe renal impairment (creatinine clearance < 30 mL/min/1.73m²) compared to patients with normal kidney function. The pharmacokinetics of candesartan in hypertensive patients undergoing hemodialysis are similar to those in hypertensive patients with severe renal impairment. Candesartan cannot be removed by hemodialysis. No initial dosage adjustment is necessary in patients with renal insufficiency [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION].

In heart failure patients with renal impairment, AUC0-72h was 36% and 65% higher in mild and moderate renal impairment, respectively. Cmax was 15% and 55% higher in mild and moderate renal impairment, respectively.


ATACAND pharmacokinetics have not been determined in children with renal insufficiency.

Hepatic Insufficiency

The pharmacokinetics of candesartan were compared in patients with mild and moderate hepatic impairment to matched healthy volunteers following a single oral dose of 16 mg candesartan cilexetil. The increase in AUC for candesartan was 30% in patients with mild hepatic impairment (Child-Pugh A) and 145% in patients with moderate hepatic impairment (Child-Pugh B). The increase in Cmax for candesartan was 56% in patients with mild hepatic impairment and 73% in patients with moderate hepatic impairment. The pharmacokinetics after candesartan cilexetil administration have not been investigated in patients with severe hepatic impairment. No initial dosage adjustment is necessary in patients with mild hepatic impairment. In hypertensive patients with moderate hepatic impairment, consideration should be given to initiation of ATACAND at a lower dose [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION].

Heart Failure

The pharmacokinetics of candesartan were linear in patients with heart failure (NYHA class II and III) after candesartan cilexetil doses of 4, 8, and 16 mg. After repeated dosing, the AUC was approximately doubled in these patients compared with healthy, younger patients. The pharmacokinetics in heart failure patients is similar to that in healthy elderly volunteers [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION].

Clinical Studies



The antihypertensive effects of ATACAND were examined in 14 placebo-controlled trials of 4-to 12-weeks duration, primarily at daily doses of 2 to 32 mg per day in patients with baseline diastolic blood pressures of 95 to 114 mm Hg. Most of the trials were of candesartan cilexetil as a single agent, but it was also studied as add-on to hydrochlorothiazide and amlodipine. These studies included a total of 2350 patients randomized to one of several doses of candesartan cilexetil and 1027 to placebo. Except for a study in diabetics, all studies showed significant effects, generally dose related, of 2 to 32 mg on trough (24 hour) systolic and diastolic pressures compared to placebo, with doses of 8 to 32 mg giving effects of about 8-12/4-8 mm Hg. There were no exaggerated first-dose effects in these patients. Most of the antihypertensive effect was seen within 2 weeks of initial dosing and the full effect in 4 weeks. With once-daily dosing, blood pressure effect was maintained over 24 hours, with trough to peak ratios of blood pressure effect generally over 80%. Candesartan cilexetil had an additional blood pressure lowering effect when added to hydrochlorothiazide.

The antihypertensive effects of candesartan cilexetil and losartan potassium at their highest recommended doses administered once-daily were compared in two randomized, double-blind trials. In a total of 1268 patients with mild to moderate hypertension who were not receiving other antihypertensive therapy, candesartan cilexetil 32 mg lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 2 to 3 mm Hg on average more than losartan potassium 100 mg, when measured at the time of either peak or trough effect. The antihypertensive effects of twice daily dosing of either candesartan cilexetil or losartan potassium were not studied.

The antihypertensive effect was similar in men and women and in patients older and younger than 65. Candesartan was effective in reducing blood pressure regardless of race, although the effect was somewhat less in blacks (usually a lowrenin population). This has been generally true for angiotensin II antagonists and ACE inhibitors.

In long-term studies of up to 1 year, the antihypertensive effectiveness of candesartan cilexetil was maintained, and there was no rebound after abrupt withdrawal.

There were no changes in the heart rate of patients treated with candesartan cilexetil in controlled trials.


The antihypertensive effects of ATACAND were evaluated in hypertensive children 1 to < 6 years old and 6 to < 17 years of age in two randomized, double-blind multicenter, 4-week dose ranging studies. There were 93 patients 1 to < 6 years of age, 74% of whom had renal disease, that were randomized to receive an oral dose of candesartan cilexetil suspension 0.05, 0.20 or 0.40 mg/kg once daily. The primary method of analysis was slope of the change in systolic blood pressure (SBP) as a function of dose. Since there was no placebo group, the change from baseline likely overestimates the true magnitude of blood pressure effect. Nevertheless, SBP and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) decreased 6.0/5.2 to 12.0/11.1 mmHg from baseline across the three doses of candesartan.

In children 6 to < 17 years, 240 patients were randomized to receive either placebo or low, medium, or high doses of ATACAND in a ratio of 1: 2: 2: 2. For children who weighed < 50 kg the doses of ATACAND were 2, 8, or 16 mg once daily. For those > 50 kg the ATACAND doses were 4, 16 or 32 mg once daily. Those enrolled were 47% Black and 29% were female; mean age +/-SD was 12.9 +/-2.6 years.

The placebo subtracted effect at trough for sitting systolic blood pressure/sitting diastolic blood pressure for the different doses were from 4.9/3.0 to 7.5/6.2 mmHg.

In children 6 to < 17 years there was a trend for a lesser blood pressure effect for Blacks compared to other patients. There were too few individuals in the age group of 1 -6 years old to determine whether Blacks respond differently than other patients to ATACAND.

Heart Failure

Candesartan was studied in two heart failure outcome studies: 1. The Candesartan in Heart failure: Assessment of Reduction in Mortality and morbidity trial in patients intolerant of ACE inhibitors (CHARM–Alternative), 2. CHARM– Added in patients already receiving ACE inhibitors. Both studies were international double-blind, placebo-controlled trials in patients with NYHA class II -IV heart failure and LVEF ≤ 40%. In both trials, patients were randomized to placebo or ATACAND (initially 4-8 mg once daily, titrated as tolerated to 32 mg once daily) and followed for up to 4 years. Patients with serum creatinine > 3 mg/dL, serum potassium > 5.5 mEq/L, symptomatic hypotension or known bilateral renal artery stenosis were excluded. The primary end point in both trials was time to either cardiovascular death or hospitalization for heart failure.

CHARM–Alternative included 2028 subjects not receiving an ACE inhibitor due to intolerance. The mean age was 67 years and 32% were female, 48% were NYHA II, 49% were NYHA III, 4% were NYHA IV, and the mean ejection fraction was 30%. Sixty-two percent had a history of myocardial infarction, 50% had a history of hypertension, and 27% had diabetes. Concomitant drugs at baseline were diuretics (85%), digoxin (46%), beta-blockers (55%), and spironolactone (24%). The mean daily dose of ATACAND was approximately 23 mg and 59% of subjects on treatment received 32 mg once daily.

After a median follow-up of 34 months, there was a 23% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular death or heart failure hospitalization on ATACAND (p < 0.001), with both components contributing to the overall effect (Table 1).

Table 1: CHARM—Alternative: Primary Endpoint and its Components

Endpoint (time to first event) ATACAND
(n= 1013)
Hazard Ratio (95% CI) p-value (logrank)
CV death or heart failure hospitalization 334 406 0.77
< 0.001
CV death 219 252 0.85
Heart failure hospitalization 207 286 0.68
< 0.001

In CHARM–Added, 2548 subjects receiving an ACE inhibitor were randomized to ATACAND or placebo. The specific ACE inhibitor and dose were at the discretion of the investigators, who were encouraged to titrate patients to doses known to be effective in clinical outcome trials, subject to patient tolerability. Forced titration to maximum tolerated doses of ACE inhibitor was not required.

The mean age was 64 years and 21% were female, 24% were NYHA II, 73% were NYHA III, 3% were NYHA IV, and the mean ejection fraction was 28%. Fifty-six percent had a history of myocardial infarction, 48% had a history of hypertension, and 30% had diabetes. Concomitant drugs at baseline in addition to ACE inhibitors were diuretics (90%), digoxin (58%), beta-blockers (55%), and spironolactone (17%). The mean daily dose of ATACAND was approximately 24 mg and 61% of subjects on treatment received 32 mg once daily.

After a median follow-up of 41 months, there was a 15% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular death or heart failure hospitalization on ATACAND (p=0.011), with both components contributing to the overall effect (Table 2). There was no evident relationship between dose of ACE inhibitor and the benefit of ATACAND.

Table 2: CHARM—Added: Primary Endpoint and its Components

Endpoint (time to first event) ATACAND
Hazard Ratio (95% CI) p-value (logrank)
CV death or heart failure hospitalization 483 538 0.85
CV death 302 347 0.84
Heart failure hospitalization 309 356 0.83

In these two studies, the benefit of ATACAND in reducing the risk of CV death or heart failure hospitalization (18% p < 0.001) was evident in major subgroups (see Figure), and in patients on other combinations of cardiovascular and heart failure treatments, including ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers.

Figure: CV Death or Heart Failure Hospitalization in Subgroups – LV Systolic Dysfunction Trials

CV Death or Heart Failure Hospitalization in Subgroups – LV Systolic Dysfunction Trials - Illustration

Last reviewed on RxList: 2/24/2016
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

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