New push to drug people with normal BP levels
"Prehypertension" is a name that sounds like it was invented to scare patients -- and it's definitely succeeded.
No one wants to be "pre" any disease -- so while the guidelines don't call for treating prehypertension with meds, many docs do so anyway... and their scared patients play right along.
Now, they're being given a new piece of ammunition for those drugs as a study finds that patients who get medicated for this non-condition have a lower risk of stroke.
"But as you'll see in a moment, this ammunition has all the power of a marshmallow bullet.
Researchers carefully selected 16 trials on BP meds that involved more than 70,000 prehypertension patients who were given either meds or a placebo -- and they didn't find what you'd expect for a condition that's supposedly linked to heart risk.
Meds, as it turned out, made no difference at all when it came to heart attack and even death from heart-related problems -- which is more proof you don't need to worry about "pre" hypertension.
But the researchers say they did find a small difference in the risk of stroke: Just 2.01 percent of patients on meds suffered one versus 2.61 percent of those on the placebo.
Of course, when you're dealing with very tiny numbers, little differences can sound bigger than they really are -- and in this case, it's a headline-grabbing difference of 22 percent.
The researchers claimed that was significant enough to begin drugging every prehypertension patient -- after all, they said, you'd "only" need to drug 169 people for 4.3 years to prevent a single stroke.
That doesn't sound very small to me, either -- and that's not the only problem with this study. As a meta-analysis, the researchers were able to pick and choose the studies they included... so who knows what studies didn't make the final cut.
There was also at least one glaring conflict: The lead researcher accepted a pile of money from Ranbaxy -- a leading maker of generic meds, including hypertension drugs.
In fact, the same week this study came out, the company unveiled its latest generic: a pill that combines a statin with (drumroll please)... a BP med.
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Edward Martin writes House Calls, a daily letter chronicling the most cutting-edge alternative methods for beating diabetes and cancer, to the latest FDA foul-ups and Big Pharma conspiracies.
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