Beraprost is a medication still in clinical studies for the treatment of early-stage pulmonary hypertension (PH), early-stage peripheral vascular disease (PVD), and reperfusion injury. The medication is a synthetic form of a chemical called prostacyclin, produced naturally by the body in the endothelial cells. It encourages vasodilation of the blood vessels by relaxing the smooth muscles cells of the blood vessel walls. This reduces the pressure on the blood vessels, which helps lower blood pressure.
Reperfusion injury occurs when blood flow is restored to tissue after a period in which it was restricted. The sudden flow of blood into the tissue causes inflammation, and oxidative stress occurs in the affected tissue. Beraprost may help dilate the blood vessels that normally deliver oxygen and nutrients to that tissue, and it may be able to prevent the damage caused by inflammation and lack of oxygen.
Peripheral vascular disease is a constriction of the blood vessels leading to the arms, legs, and internal organs, such as the stomach and kidneys. Early stages of this disease begin with cramping or severe weakness in the legs during activity. Fatty blockages in the blood vessels cause restricted blood circulation. Researchers believe that the vasodilator properties of beraprost can lead to improved blood flow and oxygenation of the affected tissues.
Pulmonary hypertension results in an increase in blood pressure to the pulmonary system through the pulmonary artery, veins, and capillaries. The increased pressure is referred to as pulmonary vasculature. Beraprost is administered to reduce the internal pressure in the blood vessels, which leads to more available oxygen for use by the body. Untreated pulmonary hypertension can lead to dizziness, fainting and difficulty breathing. Severe cases can even result in death.
Patients who participated in the clinical trials were able to walk for longer distances in six-minute trials than those on a placebo. This infers an increased level of oxygenation among the people that received beraprost in the study. The positive effects lasted as long as the medication was continued. Those people who were on a placebo had a decrease in the distance they could walk for the same time period.
The patients in the study reported some side effects, including headaches, dizziness, and flushing of the face and chest. Some people reported diarrhea and nausea while taking the medication. There also were some reports of jaw pain and leg pain that subsided when the medication was discontinued.
The safety profile of beraprost in the clinical study was reported to be excellent. There were not any indications of systemic hypotension or renal impairment among those in the study. Liver function was also not affected by the medication. The long-term effects of the medication have not yet been assessed.