The Minimal Impact of a Big Hypertension Study

– I take a blood pressure medicine because my doctor told me that even though I only have borderline high blood pressure, I’ll probably live a bit longer if I take this stuff.   OK, makes sense to me.   I take Diovan and it is fairly expensive stuff.   Well, this article makes the point that Big Pharma has been stacking the deck for years to keep us buying their expensive solutions when there are much cheaper alternatives out there.  

– Corporations and their profit motives – enough already!

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The surprising news made headlines in December 2002. Generic pills for high blood pressure, which had been in use since the 1950s and cost only pennies a day, worked better than newer drugs that were up to 20 times as expensive.

The findings, from one of the biggest clinical trials ever organized by the federal government, promised to save the nation billions of dollars in treating the tens of millions of Americans with hypertension — even if the conclusions did seem to threaten pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer that were making big money on blockbuster hypertension drugs.

Six years later, though, the use of the inexpensive pills, called diuretics, is far smaller than some of the trial’s organizers had hoped.

“It should have more than doubled,” said Dr. Curt D. Furberg, a public health sciences professor at Wake Forest University who was the first chairman of the steering committee for the study, which was known by the acronym Allhat. “The impact was disappointing.”

The percentage of hypertension patients receiving a diuretic rose to around 40 percent in the year after the Allhat results were announced, up from 30 to 35 percent beforehand, according to some studies. But use of diuretics has since stayed at that plateau. And over all, use of newer hypertension drugs has grown faster than the use of diuretics since 2002, according to Medco Health Solutions, a pharmacy benefits manager.

The Allhat experience is worth remembering now, as some policy experts and government officials call for more such studies to directly compare drugs or other treatments, as a way to stem runaway medical costs and improve care.

The aftereffects of the study show how hard it is to change medical practice, even after a government-sanctioned trial costing $130 million produced what appeared to be solid evidence.

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– This article is from the NY Times and they insist that folks have an ID and a PW in order to read their stuff. You can get these for free just by signing up. However, a friend of mine suggests the website bugmenot.com :arrow: as an alternative to having to do these annoying sign ups. Check it out. Thx Bruce S. for the tip.

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