July 8, 2009 / 5:40 AM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 1-Novartis' Rasilez approved in Japan

* Japanese approve drug to treat high blood pressure

* Is approved in over 70 countries

(adds details, background)

ZURICH, July 8 (Reuters) - Novartis AG’s NOVN.VX Rasilez pill has been approved to treat high blood pressure in Japan, the Swiss drugmaker said on Wednesday.

The country’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) approved Rasilez to treat the condition alone or in combination with other high blood pressure medicines, Novartis said.

High blood pressure is the leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the number one cause of death worldwide, Novartis said.

In Japan an estimated 40 million people, nearly a third of the population, are affected by high blood pressure, it said.

Rasilez, which is sold under the name Tekturna in the United States, is approved in more than 70 countries.

The drug will lose patent protection in 2012.

Reporting by Sven Egenter; editing by John Stonestreet

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