, Volume 63, Issue 14, pp 1435-1444
Date: 19 Sep 2012

Current Treatment of Patients with Hypertension

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When planning treatment for patients with hypertension, current guidelines emphasise the importance of risk stratification, based on blood pressure, the presence of end-organ damage and other cardiovascular risk factors. Because the beneficial effect of antihypertensive therapy seems to be linked to the degree of blood pressure reduction, guidelines recommend reducing blood pressure below 140/90mm Hg, with a lower target in patients who are young or who have diabetes mellitus (with or without nephropathy) or non-diabetic nephropathy.

Blood pressure reduction can be achieved with several classes of drugs, including diuretics, β-blockers, ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II antagonists and calcium channel antagonists. Calcium channel antagonists have been shown to reduce the risk of stroke and major cardiovascular events. However, it is still controversial whether different treatment regimens based on different drug classes can offer advantages beyond similar degrees of blood pressure control in preventing cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.

The International Nifedipine GITS Study: Intervention as a Goal in Hypertension Treatment (INSIGHT) was a controlled clinical trial aimed at comparing the efficacy of a long-acting calcium channel antagonist, nifedipine gastrointestinal-transport-system (GITS), versus co-amilozide, a combination of the diuretics hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) and amiloride, on morbidity and mortality in high-risk hypertensive patients. Nifedipine GITS and HCTZ/amiloride were equally effective at reducing blood pressure and the risk of primary outcomes (a composite of death from any cardiovascular or cerebrovascular cause, non-fatal stroke, myocardial infarction and heart failure). Results from other studies indicate that there may be greater benefits for stroke and smaller benefits for coronary artery disease with calcium channel antagonist-based regimens than with diuretic or β-blocker-based regimens. However, there is at present insufficient evidence to recommend a specific drug choice based on patient risk profile.

Thus, the choice of antihypertensive drug(s) should be according to efficacy and tolerability. In addition to the reductions in cardiovascular risk, two substudies of INSIGHT showed that nifedipine GITS was able to prevent the progression of intima media thickness in the common carotid artery and slow the progression of coronary calcification. The clinical significance of this effect in the prevention of cardiovascular events still remains to be established.