Hypertension Worsened by Commonly Used Prescription Meds

Nearly one out of five American adults with hypertension is on a prescription drug known to raise blood pressure, based on analysis of more than 27,000 people included in recent reports from the recurring National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

Nearly half of these American adults had hypertension, and in this subgroup, 18.5% reported using a prescription drug known to increase blood pressure. The most widely used class of agents with this effect was antidepressants, used by 8.7%; followed by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), used by 6.5%; steroids, 1.9%; estrogens, 1.7%; and several other agents each used by fewer than 1% of the study cohort, John Vitarello, MD, said during a press briefing on reports from the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology.

He and his associates estimated that this use of prescription drugs known to raise blood pressure could be what stands in the way of some 560,000-2.2 million Americans from having their hypertension under control, depending on the exact blood pressure impact that various pressure-increasing drugs have and presuming that half of those on blood pressure increasing agents could stop them and switch to alternative agents, said Vitarello, a researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

He also highlighted that the study assessed only prescription drugs and did not examine OTC drug use, which may be especially relevant for the many people who regularly take NSAIDs.

“Clinicians should review the prescription and OTC drug use of patients with hypertension and consider stopping drugs that increase blood pressure or switching the patient to alternatives” that are blood pressure neutral, Vitarello said during the briefing. He cautioned that maintaining hypertensive patients on agents that raise their blood pressure can result in “prescribing cascades” where taking drugs that boost blood pressure results in need for intensified antihypertensive treatment.

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