A newly published study has suggested that “a combination of drugs is better than a single one in treating high blood pressure”, BBC News reported.
This randomised controlled trial found that starting patients on a combination of hypertension drugs gives a faster and greater reduction in blood pressure than either of the drugs on their own, without any more side effects. The drugs, amlodipine and aliskiren, work to lower blood pressure in different ways.
Doctors currently start patients with high blood pressure on one drug and may add others later if needed. The authors of this well-designed trial suggest that clinical practice should now be changed and that patients with high blood pressure be started on two drugs rather than one. However, although the results of this study are significant, it looked only at two specific types of drug, so cannot make comparisons of the effectiveness of treatment with other classes of blood pressure drug, whether used alone or in combination. Longer-term effects and adverse outcomes beyond 32 weeks (such as stroke, heart attack or early death) have not yet been examined.
People who are concerned about their blood pressure or its treatment should visit their GP.
The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Cambridge, the British Hypertension Society, the University of Glasgow, Novartis Pharma AG, Switzerland, and Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee. It was funded by Novartis Pharma AG and two of the study’s authors are employees of this company. The study was published in peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet.
The study was mostly reported accurately by the BBC, however, the statement that the combined treatment had fewer side effects is incorrect. The proportion of people who withdrew due to side effects was actually the same for combined treatment and the group taking aliskiren plus placebo, but higher (18%) for those taking amlodipine. The claim by the Daily Express that the pill could “prevent 5,000 strokes a year” is not supported by the study, which looked at the effect of different treatments on blood pressure measurements, not on strokes or other cardiovascular outcomes.