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Mechanism of Action

Angiotensin II is a potent vasoconstrictor 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 (RAS) and also stimulates aldosterone synthesis and secretion by adrenal cortex, cardiac contraction, renal resorption of sodium, activity of the sympathetic nervous system, and smooth muscle cell growth. Irbesartan blocks the vasoconstrictor and aldosterone-secreting effects of angiotensin II by selectively binding to the AT1 angiotensin II receptor. There is also an AT2 receptor in many tissues, but it is not involved in cardiovascular homeostasis.

Irbesartan is a specific competitive antagonist of AT1 receptors with a much greater affinity (more than 8500-fold) for the AT1 receptor than for the AT2 receptor and no agonist activity.

Blockade of the AT1 receptor removes the negative feedback of angiotensin II on renin secretion, but the resulting increased plasma renin activity and circulating angiotensin II do not overcome the effects of irbesartan on blood pressure.

Irbesartan does not inhibit ACE or renin or affect other hormone receptors or ion channels known to be involved in the cardiovascular regulation of blood pressure and sodium homeostasis. Because irbesartan does not inhibit ACE, it does not affect the response to bradykinin; whether this has clinical relevance is not known.


Irbesartan is an orally active agent that does not require biotransformation into an active form. The oral absorption of irbesartan is rapid and complete with an average absolute bioavailability of 60% to 80%. Following oral administration of AVAPRO, peak plasma concentrations of irbesartan are attained at 1.5 to 2 hours after dosing. Food does not affect the bioavailability of AVAPRO.

Irbesartan exhibits linear pharmacokinetics over the therapeutic dose range.

The terminal elimination half-life of irbesartan averaged 11 to 15 hours. Steady-state concentrations are achieved within 3 days. Limited accumulation of irbesartan ( < 20%) is observed in plasma upon repeated once-daily dosing.

Metabolism and Elimination

Irbesartan is metabolized via glucuronide conjugation and oxidation. Following oral or intravenous administration of 14C-labeled irbesartan, more than 80% of the circulating plasma radioactivity is attributable to unchanged irbesartan. The primary circulating metabolite is the inactive irbesartan glucuronide conjugate (approximately 6%). The remaining oxidative metabolites do not add appreciably to irbesartan's pharmacologic activity.

Irbesartan and its metabolites are excreted by both biliary and renal routes. Following either oral or intravenous administration of 14C-labeled irbesartan, about 20% of radioactivity is recovered in the urine and the remainder in the feces, as irbesartan or irbesartan glucuronide.

In vitro studies of irbesartan oxidation by cytochrome P450 isoenzymes indicated irbesartan was oxidized primarily by 2C9; metabolism by 3A4 was negligible. Irbesartan was neither metabolized by, nor did it substantially induce or inhibit, isoenzymes commonly associated with drug metabolism (1A1, 1A2, 2A6, 2B6, 2D6, 2E1). There was no induction or inhibition of 3 A4.


Irbesartan is 90% bound to serum proteins (primarily albumin and ai-acid glycoprotein) with negligible binding to cellular components of blood. The average volume of distribution is 53 liters to 93 liters. Total plasma and renal clearances are in the range of 157 mL/min to 176 mL/min and 3.0 mL/min to 3.5 mL/min, respectively. With repetitive dosing, irbesartan accumulates to no clinically relevant extent.

Studies in animals indicate that radiolabeled irbesartan weakly crosses the blood-brain barrier and placenta. Irbesartan is excreted in the milk of lactating rats.

Special Populations


No gender-related differences in pharmacokinetics were observed in healthy elderly (age 65-80 years) or in healthy young (age 18-40 years) subjects. In studies of hypertensive patients, there was no gender difference in half-life or accumulation, but somewhat higher plasma concentrations of irbesartan were observed in females (11-44%). No gender-related dosage adjustment is necessary.


In elderly subjects (age 65-80 years), irbesartan elimination half-life was not significantly altered, but AUC and Cmax values were about 20% to 50% greater than those of young subjects (age 18-40 years). No dosage adjustment is necessary in the elderly.


In healthy black subjects, irbesartan AUC values were approximately 25% greater than whites; there were no differences in Cmax values.

Renal Insufficiency

The pharmacokinetics of irbesartan were not altered in patients with renal impairment or in patients on hemodialysis. Irbesartan is not removed by hemodialysis. No dosage adjustment is necessary in patients with mild to severe renal impairment unless a patient with renal impairment is also volume depleted. (See WARNINGS: Hypotension in Volume- or Salt-Depleted Patients and DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION.)

Hepatic Insufficiency

The pharmacokinetics of irbesartan following repeated oral administration were not significantly affected in patients with mild to moderate cirrhosis of the liver. No dosage adjustment is necessary in patients with hepatic insufficiency.

Drug Interactions



In healthy subjects, single oral irbesartan doses of up to 300 mg produced dose-dependent inhibition of the pressor effect of angiotensin II infusions. Inhibition was complete (100%) 4 hours following oral doses of 150 mg or 300 mg and partial inhibition was sustained for 24 hours (60% and 40% at 300 mg and 150 mg, respectively).

In hypertensive patients, angiotensin II receptor inhibition following chronic administration of irbesartan causes a 1.5- to 2-fold rise in angiotensin II plasma concentration and a 2- to 3-fold increase in plasma renin levels. Aldosterone plasma concentrations generally decline following irbesartan administration, but serum potassium levels are not significantly affected at recommended doses.

In hypertensive patients, chronic oral doses of irbesartan (up to 300 mg) had no effect on glomerular filtration rate, renal plasma flow, or filtration fraction. In multiple dose studies in hypertensive patients, there were no clinically important effects on fasting triglycerides, total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, or fasting glucose concentrations. There was no effect on serum uric acid during chronic oral administration, and no uricosuric effect.

Clinical Studies


The antihypertensive effects of AVAPRO (irbesartan) were examined in 7 major placebo-controlled 8 to 12 week trials in patients with baseline diastolic blood pressures of 95 mmHg to 110 mmHg. Doses of 1 mg to 900 mg were included in these trials in order to fully explore the dose-range of irbesartan. These studies allowed comparison of once- or twice-daily regimens at 150 mg/day, comparisons of peak and trough effects, and comparisons of response by gender, age, and race. Two of the 7 placebo-controlled trials identified above examined the antihypertensive effects of irbesartan and hydrochlorothiazide in combination.

The 7 studies of irbesartan monotherapy included a total of 1915 patients randomized to irbesartan (1-900 mg) and 611 patients randomized to placebo. Once-daily doses of 150 mg and 300 mg provided statistically and clinically significant decreases in systolic and diastolic blood pressure with trough (24 hours post-dose) effects after 6 to 12 weeks of treatment compared to placebo, of about 8-10/5-6 mmHg and 8-12/5-8 mmHg, respectively. No further increase in effect was seen at dosages greater than 300 mg. The dose-response relationships for effects on systolic and diastolic pressure are shown in Figures 1 and 2.

Figure 1. Placebo-subtracted reduction in trough SeSBP; integrated analysis

Placebo-subtracted reduction in trough SeSBP; integrated analysis - Illustration

Figure 2. Placebo-subtracted reduction in trough SeDBP; integrated analysis

Placebo-subtracted reduction in trough SeDBP; integrated analysis - Illustration

Once-daily administration of therapeutic doses of irbesartan gave peak effects at around 3 to 6 hours and, in one ambulatory blood pressure monitoring study, again around 14 hours. This was seen with both once-daily and twice-daily dosing. Trough-to-peak ratios for systolic and diastolic response were generally between 60% to 70%. In a continuous ambulatory blood pressure monitoring study, once-daily dosing with 150 mg gave trough and mean 24-hour responses similar to those observed in patients receiving twice-daily dosing at the same total daily dose.

In controlled trials, the addition of irbesartan to hydrochlorothiazide doses of 6.25 mg, 12.5 mg, or 25 mg produced further dose-related reductions in blood pressure similar to those achieved with the same monotherapy dose of irbesartan. HCTZ also had an approximately additive effect.

Analysis of age, gender, and race subgroups of patients showed that men and women, and patients over and under 65 years of age, had generally similar responses. Irbesartan was effective in reducing blood pressure regardless of race, although the effect was somewhat less in blacks (usually a low-renin population).

The effect of irbesartan is apparent after the first dose, and it is close to its full observed effect at 2 weeks. At the end of an 8-week exposure, about 2/3 of the antihypertensive effect was still present one week after the last dose. Rebound hypertension was not observed. There was essentially no change in average heart rate in irbesartan-treated patients in controlled trials.

Nephropathy in Type 2 Diabetic Patients

The Irbesartan Diabetic Nephropathy Trial (IDNT) was a randomized, placebo- and active-controlled, double-blind, multicenter study conducted worldwide in 1715 patients with type 2 diabetes, hypertension (SeSBP > 135 mmHg or SeDBP > 85 mmHg), and nephropathy (serum creatinine 1.0 to 3.0 mg/dL in females or 1.2 to 3.0 mg/dL in males and proteinuria ≥ 900 mg/day). Patients were randomized to receive AVAPRO 75 mg, amlodipine 2.5 mg, or matching placebo once-daily. Patients were titrated to a maintenance dose of AVAPRO 300 mg, or amlodipine 10 mg, as tolerated. Additional antihypertensive agents (excluding ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor antagonists and calcium channel blockers) were added as needed to achieve blood pressure goal ( < 135/85 or 10 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure if higher than 160 mmHg) for patients in all groups.

The study population was 66.5% male, 72.9% below 65 years of age and 72% White, (Asian/Pacific Islander 5.0%, Black 13.3%, Hispanic 4.8%). The mean baseline seated systolic and diastolic blood pressures were 159 mmHg and 87 mmHg, respectively. The patients entered the trial with a mean serum creatinine of 1.7 mg/dL and mean proteinuria of 4144 mg/day.

The mean blood pressure achieved was 142/77 mmHg for AVAPRO, 142/76 mmHg for amlodipine, and 145/79 mmHg for placebo. Overall, 83.0% of patients received the target dose of irbesartan more than 50% of the time. Patients were followed for a mean duration of 2.6 years.

The primary composite endpoint was the time to occurrence of any one of the following events: doubling of baseline serum creatinine, end-stage renal disease (ESRD; defined by serum creatinine ≥ 6 mg/dL, dialysis, or renal transplantation) or death. Treatment with AVAPRO resulted in a 20% risk reduction versus placebo (p=0.0234) (see Figure 3 and Table 1). Treatment with AVAPRO also reduced the occurrence of sustained doubling of serum creatinine as a separate endpoint (33%), but had no significant effect on ESRD alone and no effect on overall mortality (see Table 1).

Figure 3. IDNT: Kaplan-Meier Estimates Of Primary Endpoint (Doubling of Serum Creatinine, End-Stage Renal Disease or All-Cause Mortality)

Kaplan-Meier Estimates Of Primary Endpoint - Illustration

The percentages of patients experiencing an event during the course of the study can be seen in Table 1 below:

Table 1: IDNT: Components of Primary Composite Endpoint

Comparison With Placebo Comparison With Amlodipine
Hazard Ratio 95% CI Amlodipine
Hazard Ratio 95% CI
Primary Composite Endpoint 32.6 39.0 0.80 0.66-0.97
41.1 0.77 0.63-0.93
Breakdown of first occurring event contributing to primary endpoint
  2x creatinine 14.2 19.5 22.8
  ESRD 7.4 8.3 8.8
  Death 11.1 11.2 9.5
Incidence of total events over entire period of follow-up
  2x creatinine 16.9 23.7 0.67 0.52-0.87 25.4 0.63 0.49-0.81
  ESRD 14.2 17.8 0.77 0.57-1.03 18.3 0.77 0.57-1.03
  Death 15.0 16.3 0.92 0.69-1.23 14.6 1.04 0.77-1.40

The secondary endpoint of the study was a composite of cardiovascular mortality and morbidity (myocardial infarction, hospitalization for heart failure, stroke with permanent neurological deficit, amputation). There were no statistically significant differences among treatment groups in these endpoints. Compared with placebo, AVAPRO significantly reduced proteinuria by about 27%, an effect that was evident within 3 months of starting therapy. AVAPRO significantly reduced the rate of loss of renal function (glomerular filtration rate), as measured by the reciprocal of the serum creatinine concentration, by 18.2%.

Table 2 presents results for demographic subgroups. Subgroup analyses are difficult to interpret and it is not known whether these observations represent true differences or chance effects. For the primary endpoint, AVAPRO's favorable effects were seen in patients also taking other antihypertensive medications (angiotensin II receptor antagonists, angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors and calcium channel blockers were not allowed), oral hypoglycemic agents, and lipid-lowering agents.

Table 2: IDNT: Primary Efficacy Outcome Within Subgroups

Baseline Factors AVAPRO
Comparison With Placebo
Hazard Ratio 95% Cl
  Male 27.5 36.7 0.68 0.53-0.88
  Female 42.3 44.6 0.98 0.72-1.34
  White 29.5 37.3 0.75 0.60-0.95
  Non-White 42.6 43.5 0.95 0.67-1.34
Age (years)
   < 65 31.8 39.9 0.77 0.62-0.97
   ≥ 65 35.1 36.8 0.88 0.61-1.29

Last reviewed on RxList: 9/24/2012
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.


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