Tenapanor (AZD1722, RDX5791) is a drug currently under development by Ardelyx and Astra-Zeneca. It is designed to prevent the absorption of sodium from the salt in food.
It is an inhibitor of a protein called non-absorbed solute carrier family 9 sodium hydrogen exchanger member 3. (That’s quite a mouthful, so it is referred to as an NHE3 inhibitor). Your body needs a certain about of sodium to function properly, so it has a mechanism for extracting it from food in your digestive system. Basically, tenapanor blocks the action of this mechanism, preventing it from transporting sodium across the gut lining into the blood.
Tenapanor is putatively aimed at patients with kidney disease and other health problems that make them very susceptible to adverse effects of high salt intake. But no doubt, there are also visions of a lifestyle drug that can be taken by anyone. Just like the way that weightloss drugs which are approved for use in severely obese patients are sought after by people looking for a quick way to loose a few pounds. The temptation to find a drug to solve the problem rather than to change one’s bad habits is just too great for some.
Tenapanor is already being referred to in the media as a “salt-buster drug” (here, for example) giving it the same type of appeal as the latest “fat buster” being advertised. The idea is that maybe someday you can eat all the potato chips you like without worrying about the salt affecting your high blood pressure.