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NIH stops one part of high blood pressure test; one treatment more effective

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March 8, 2000
Web posted at: 2:01 p.m. EST (1901 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) stopped one part of a high blood pressure study after one of two drugs being tested was found to be less effective.

The trial, called Antihypertensive and Lipid Lowering Treatment to Prevent Heart Attack Trial (ALLHAT), was comparing the effectiveness of a conventional diuretic and a newer treatment, an alpha blocker. The alpha blocker was found to be much less effective against some forms of cardiovascular disease.

Researchers found patients taking the alpha blocker doxazosin had 25 percent more cardiovascular events and were twice as likely to be hospitalized for congestive heart failure as the patients taking the diuretic chlorthalidone.

In a statement from NIH, Dr. Claude Lenfant, director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), said, "This finding adds important information to our understanding of antihypertensive drugs."

The NIH says of the approximately 24 million Americans who take medication to treat their hypertension, about a million use an alpha blocker.

Due to the findings, health officials are recommending high blood pressure patients who take alpha blockers talk with their doctors about possible alternatives. For patients just starting drug treatment, an alpha blocker may not be the best choice.

"Patients on an alpha blocker for high blood pressure should see their doctor and not just stop taking it," said NHLBI's Dr. Jeffrey Cutler. "We cannot conclude that the drug was harmful. Rather, it didn't work as well as the diuretic in reducing cardiovascular disease."

The alpha blocker used in the study is sold under the brand name Cardura. Other alpha blockers used for hypertension are terazosin, sold under the brand name Hytrin, and prazosin, sold under the brand name Minipres.

More than 40,000 patients aged 55 or older participate in the ALLHAT study, which began in 1994. Of those, 47 percent are women, 47 percent are white, 35 percent are African-American, and 16 percent are Hispanic. All the participants were diagnosed with high blood pressure and at least one other risk factor for heart disease when they enrolled in the trial. A part of ALLHAT focussing on lowering cholesterol is expected to continue as scheduled through 2002.



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