In essential hypertension, endothelial dysfunction has been documented many times and correlates with prognosis. The influence of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) on endothelial dysfunction has also been studied. The present study investigated the duration of the effects of RAAS-blocking drugs on endothelial function in 44 consecutive, never-treated, outpatients with mild to moderate hypertension. Patients (11 per group) received an angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB; irbesartan 300 mg/day or valsartan 160 mg/day) or an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor (ACEi; fosinopril 10 mg/day or quinapril 20 mg/day). If target blood pressure (< 140/90 mmHg) was not achieved, 12.5 mg/day hydrochlorothiazide was added. Endothelial function, assessed by measuring brachial artery diameter, did not change significantly after 6 weeks, 1 year or 3 years of treatment in any group. Across all groups, endothelium-dependent and -independent vasodilation increased significantly after 6 weeks but, after 1 year, decreased below baseline and was at a similar level after 3 years; groups did not differ significantly. Both ACE and ARB had similar effects on endothelial function; improvement occurred at the start of treatment but was not maintained. Endothelial dysfunction may be a resistant or irreversible feature of hypertension, requiring high doses of antihypertensive drugs and above-average patient compliance.