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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. Telmisartan 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. Telmisartan has much greater affinity ( > 3,000 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 telmisartan does not inhibit ACE (kininase II), it does not affect the response to bradykinin. Whether this difference has clinical relevance is not yet known. Telmisartan 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 telmisartan on blood pressure.


In normal volunteers, a dose of telmisartan 80 mg inhibited the pressor response to an intravenous infusion of angiotensin II by about 90% at peak plasma concentrations with approximately 40% inhibition persisting for 24 hours.

Plasma concentration of angiotensin II and plasma renin activity (PRA) increased in a dose-dependent manner after single administration of telmisartan to healthy subjects and repeated administration to hypertensive patients. The once-daily administration of up to 80 mg telmisartan to healthy subjects did not influence plasma aldosterone concentrations. In multiple dose studies with hypertensive patients, there were no clinically significant changes in electrolytes (serum potassium or sodium), or in metabolic function (including serum levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL, LDL, glucose, or uric acid).

In 30 hypertensive patients with normal renal function treated for 8 weeks with telmisartan 80 mg or telmisartan 80 mg in combination with hydrochlorothiazide 12.5 mg, there were no clinically significant changes from baseline in renal blood flow, glomerular filtration rate, filtration fraction, renovascular resistance, or creatinine clearance.


Following oral administration, peak concentrations (Cmax) of telmisartan are reached in 0.5 to 1 hour after dosing. Food slightly reduces the bioavailability of telmisartan, with a reduction in the area under the plasma concentration-time curve (AUC) of about 6% with the 40 mg tablet and about 20% after a 160 mg dose. The absolute bioavailability of telmisartan is dose dependent. At 40 and 160 mg the bioavailability was 42% and 58%, respectively. The pharmacokinetics of orally administered telmisartan are nonlinear over the dose range 20 to 160 mg, with greater than proportional increases of plasma concentrations (Cmax and AUC) with increasing doses. Telmisartan shows bi-exponential decay kinetics with a terminal elimination half life of approximately 24 hours. Trough plasma concentrations of telmisartan with once daily dosing are about 10% to 25% of peak plasma concentrations. Telmisartan has an accumulation index in plasma of 1.5 to 2.0 upon repeated once daily dosing.


Telmisartan is highly bound to plasma proteins ( > 99.5%), mainly albumin and α1 - acid glycoprotein. Plasma protein binding is constant over the concentration range achieved with recommended doses. The volume of distribution for telmisartan is approximately 500 liters indicating additional tissue binding.

Metabolism and Elimination

Following either intravenous or oral administration of 14C-labeled telmisartan, most of the administered dose ( > 97%) was eliminated unchanged in feces via biliary excretion; only minute amounts were found in the urine (0.91% and 0.49% of total radioactivity, respectively).

Telmisartan is metabolized by conjugation to form a pharmacologically inactive acyl glucuronide; the glucuronide of the parent compound is the only metabolite that has been identified in human plasma and urine. After a single dose, the glucuronide represents approximately 11% of the measured radioactivity in plasma. The cytochrome P450 isoenzymes are not involved in the metabolism of telmisartan.

Total plasma clearance of telmisartan is > 800 mL/min. Terminal half-life and total clearance appear to be independent of dose.

Specific Populations

Renal Insufficiency

No dosage adjustment is necessary in patients with decreased renal function. Telmisartan is not removed from blood by hemofiltration [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS and DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION].

Hepatic Insufficiency

In patients with hepatic insufficiency, plasma concentrations of telmisartan are increased, and absolute bioavailability approaches 100% [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS and Use In Specific Populations].


Plasma concentrations of telmisartan are generally 2 to 3 times higher in females than in males. In clinical trials, however, no significant increases in blood pressure response or in the incidence of orthostatic hypotension were found in women. No dosage adjustment is necessary.

Geriatric Patients

The pharmacokinetics of telmisartan do not differ between the elderly and those younger than 65 years [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION].

Pediatric Patients

Telmisartan pharmacokinetics have not been investigated in patients < 18 years of age.

Developmental Toxicity

There is no clinical experience with the use of MICARDIS tablets in pregnant women. No teratogenic effects were observed when telmisartan was administered to pregnant rats at oral doses of up to 50 mg/kg/day and to pregnant rabbits at oral doses up to 45 mg/kg/day. In rabbits, embryolethality associated with maternal toxicity (reduced body weight gain and food consumption) was observed at 45 mg/kg/day [about 12 times the maximum recommended human dose (MRHD) of 80 mg on a mg/m²basis]. In rats, maternally toxic (reduction in body weight gain and food consumption) telmisartan doses of 15 mg/kg/day (about 1.9 times the MRHD on a mg/m²basis), administered during late gestation and lactation, were observed to produce adverse effects in neonates, including reduced viability, low birth weight, delayed maturation, and decreased weight gain. Telmisartan has been shown to be present in rat fetuses during late gestation and in rat milk. The no observed effect doses for developmental toxicity in rats and rabbits, 5 and 15 mg/kg/day, respectively, are about 0.64 and 3.7 times, on a mg/m²basis, the maximum recommended human dose of telmisartan (80 mg/day).

Clinical Studies


The antihypertensive effects of MICARDIS have been demonstrated in six principal placebo-controlled clinical trials, studying a range of 20 to 160 mg; one of these examined the antihypertensive effects of telmisartan and hydrochlorothiazide in combination. The studies involved a total of 1773 patients with mild to moderate hypertension (diastolic blood pressure of 95 to 114 mmHg), 1031 of whom were treated with telmisartan. Following once daily administration of telmisartan, the magnitude of blood pressure reduction from baseline after placebo subtraction was approximately (SBP/DBP) 6-8/6 mmHg for 20 mg, 9-13/6-8 mmHg for 40 mg, and 12-13/7-8 mmHg for 80 mg. Larger doses (up to 160 mg) did not appear to cause a further decrease in blood pressure.

Upon initiation of antihypertensive treatment with telmisartan, blood pressure was reduced after the first dose, with a maximal reduction by about 4 weeks. With cessation of treatment with MICARDIS tablets, blood pressure gradually returned to baseline values over a period of several days to one week. During long term studies (without placebo control) the effect of telmisartan appeared to be maintained for up to at least one year. The antihypertensive effect of telmisartan is not influenced by patient age, gender, weight, or body mass index. Blood pressure response in black patients (usually a low-renin population) is noticeably less than that in Caucasian patients. This has been true for most, but not all, angiotensin II antagonists and ACE inhibitors.

In a controlled study, the addition of telmisartan to hydrochlorothiazide produced an additional dose-related reduction in blood pressure that was similar in magnitude to the reduction achieved with telmisartan monotherapy. Hydrochlorothiazide also had an added blood pressure effect when added to telmisartan.

The onset of antihypertensive activity occurs within 3 hours after administration of a single oral dose. At doses of 20, 40, and 80 mg, the antihypertensive effect of once daily administration of telmisartan is maintained for the full 24-hour dose interval. With automated ambulatory blood pressure monitoring and conventional blood pressure measurements, the 24-hour trough-to-peak ratio for 40 to 80 mg doses of telmisartan was 70 to 100% for both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The incidence of symptomatic orthostasis after the first dose in all controlled trials was low (0.04%).

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

There are no trials of MICARDIS demonstrating reductions in cardiovascular risk in patients with hypertension, but at least one pharmacologically similar drug has demonstrated such benefits.

Cardiovascular Risk Reduction

Support for use to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events was obtained in a pair of studies. Both enrolled subjects age ≥ 55 years, at high cardiovascular risk as evidenced by coronary artery disease (75%), diabetes mellitus (27%) accompanied with end-organ damage (e.g., retinopathy, left ventricular hypertrophy, and, in ONTARGET only, macro- or microalbuminuria), stroke (16%), peripheral vascular disease (13%), or transient ischemic attack (4%). Patients without a history of intolerance to ACE inhibitors entered ONTARGET, and those with such a history, usually cough (90%), entered TRANSCEND, but patients with > 1+ proteinuria on dipstick were excluded from TRANSCEND. For both ONTARGET and TRANSCEND trials, the primary 4-component composite endpoint was death from cardiovascular causes, myocardial infarction, stroke, and hospitalization for heart failure. The secondary 3-component composite endpoint was death from cardiovascular causes, myocardial infarction, and stroke.

ONTARGET was a randomized, active-controlled, multinational, double-blind study in 25,620 patients who were randomized to telmisartan 80 mg, ramipril 10 mg, or their combination. The population studied was 73% male, 74% Caucasian, 14% Asian, and 57% were 65 years of age or older. Baseline therapy included acetylsalicylic acid (76%), lipid lowering agents (64%), beta-blockers (57%), calcium channel blockers (34%), nitrates (29%), and diuretics (28%). Mean blood pressure at randomization was 134/77 mmHg. The mean duration of follow up was about 4 years and 6 months. During the study, 22.0% (n=1878) of telmisartan patients discontinued the active treatment, compared to 24.4% (n=2095) of ramipril patients and 25.3% (n=2152) of telmisartan/ramipril patients.

TRANSCEND randomized patients to telmisartan 80 mg (n=2954) or placebo (n=2972). The mean duration of follow up was 4 years and 8 months. The population studied was 57% male, 62% Caucasian, 21% Asian, and 60% were 65 years of age or older. Baseline therapy included acetylsalicylic acid (75%), lipid lowering agents (58%), beta-blockers (58%), calcium channel blockers (41%), nitrates (34%) and diuretics (33%). Mean blood pressure at randomization was 135/78 mmHg. During the study, 17.7% (n=523) of telmisartan patients discontinued the active treatment, compared to 19.4% (n=576) of placebo patients.

The results for the TRANSCEND trial are summarized in Table 2, and the results for ONTARGET are summarized in Table 3, below:

Table 2 : Incidence of the Primary and Secondary Outcomes from TRANSCEND

  Telmisartan vs.
No. of Events Telmisartan / Placebo Hazard Ratio 95% CI
*Composite of CV death, myocardial infarction, stroke, or hospitalization for heart failure 465 (15.7%) / 504 (17.0%) 0.92 (0.81 – 1.05) 0.2129
*Composite of CV death, myocardial infarction, or stroke 384 (13.0%) / 440 (14.8%) 0.87 (0.76 – 1.00) 0.0483
Individual components of the primary composite endpoint No. of Events Telmisartan / Placebo Hazard Ratio 95% CI p-value
  **All non-fatal MI 114 (3.9%) / 145 (4.9%) 0.79 (0.62 – 1.01) 0.0574
  ** All non-fatal strokes 112 (3.8%) / 136 (4.6%) 0.83 (0.64 – 1.06) 0.1365
*The primary endpoint was defined as the time to first event. In case of multiple simultaneous events, all individual events were considered; the sum of patients with individual outcomes may exceed the number of patients with composite (primary or secondary) outcomes.
**For individual components of the primary composite endpoints, all events, regardless whether or not they were the first event, were considered. Therefore, they are more than the first events considered for the primary or secondary composite endpoint.

Table 3 : Incidence of the Primary and Secondary Outcomes from ONTARGET

  Telmisartan vs.
No. of Events Telmisartan / Ramipril Hazard Ratio 97.5% CI
Composite of CV death, myocardial infarction, stroke, or hospitalization for heart failure 1423 (16.7%) / 1412 (16.5%) 1.01 (0.93 – 1.10)
Composite of CV death, myocardial infarction, or stroke 1190 (13.9%) / 1210 (14.1%) 0.99 (0.90 – 1.08)

Although the event rates in ONTARGET were similar on telmisartan and ramipril, the results did not unequivocally rule out that MICARDIS may not preserve a meaningful fraction of the effect of ramipril in reducing cardiovascular events. However, the results of both ONTARGET and TRANSCEND do adequately support MICARDIS being more effective than placebo would be in this setting, particularly for the end point of time to cardiovascular death, myocardial infarction, or stroke.

In ONTARGET, there was no evidence that combining ramipril and MICARDIS reduced the risk of death from cardiovascular causes, myocardial infarction, stroke, or hospitalization for heart failure greater than ramipril alone; instead, patients who received the combination of ramipril and telmisartan in ONTARGET experienced an increased incidence of clinically important renal dysfunction (e.g., acute renal failure) compared to patients receiving MICARDIS or ramipril alone.

Multiple sub-group analyses did not demonstrate any differences in the 4-component composite primary endpoint based on age, gender, or ethnicity for either ONTARGET or TRANSCEND trial.

Last reviewed on RxList: 11/6/2012
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.


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