In Australia the number of patients developing end-stage kidney disease is growing. Almost 70% of new cases of treated end-stage kidney disease are due to diabetes, hypertension or glomerulonephritis. The majority of these patients have a chronic decline of renal function over many years before dialysis is required, even when the initial insult is no longer present. Hypertension and the degree of proteinuria are the most important determinants for this progression and ample evidence suggests that angiotensin II is the key player in sustaining both hypertension and proteinuria. Angiotensin II mediates not only haemodynamic changes but also profibrotic and pro-inflammatory processes. Blockade of the renin-angiotensin system decreases proteinuria and slows the progression of both diabetic and non-diabetic proteinuric renal disease. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are first-line therapy in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus and nephropathy, whereas angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB) are first-line therapy in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus and microalbuminuria or overt nephropathy. Finally, treatment with ACE inhibitors delays the progression of proteinuric nephropathy in non-diabetic patients. Combination therapy with ACE inhibitors and ARB may allow a more complete blockade of the renin-angiotensin system and clinical trials show that ACE inhibitor–ARB combinations have an additive antiproteinuric effect of up to 40% compared with ACE inhibitor or ARB alone, without additional blood pressure-lowering effect. Finally, it is important to emphasize that progressive lowering of blood pressure to 120 mmHg is associated with improved renal outcome and that this effect is independent of baseline renal function.