Inexpensive drug combo helps prevent heart problems, strokes

CHICAGO — Two big studies offer good news to people with high blood pressure, finding that novel ways to use cheap drugs already on the market can lower their risk of heart attacks, stroke and death — even in the elderly.

Both studies were stopped early so the benefits could be made known. Doctors presented results Monday at an American College of Cardiology conference.

“It is never too late to start” on blood pressure drugs, said Dr. Nigel Beckett of Imperial College in London, who led one study in the elderly that also was published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.

More than 70 million Americans have high blood pressure — readings of 140 over 90 or more — and only a third have it well controlled by medicines. Guidelines advise starting on one, usually a “water pill,” and adding others as needed.

With each new medication, “You get more pills, more co-pays,” said Dr. Kenneth Jamerson of the University of Michigan. “Our idea is, if you have to add on, why not do two right off the bat” in a single pill.

He led a study testing a single daily pill combining a diuretic and the ACE inhibitor benazepril versus a daily pill containing benazepril and a calcium channel blocker, amlodipine. ACE inhibitors dilate blood vessels to lower pressure. Calcium channel blockers do the same in a different way.

A total of 11,462 people in the United States and Nordic countries were given one combo or the other. Their average age was 68, and besides high blood pressure they were obese, had diabetes or other health problems.

Neither they nor their doctors knew which drugs they were taking until the study was stopped in October after it was clear that people on the ACE-calcium blocker combo were doing better.

Those people had about 15 percent fewer heart-related problems or strokes — 531 among the 5,721 in this group versus 653 events among the 5,741 others, Jamerson said.

Six months of treatment with either combo brought blood pressure to an acceptable range for 73 percent of patients.

The study was paid for by Novartis, which sells Lotrel, the combo that proved better, and Jamerson consults for the company. The drugs are all sold as generics, although the doses in some require two pills a day instead of one.

A second study that found dramatic benefits for treating people in their 80s, an age when blood pressure drugs were not known to be safe or effective.

That study was stopped last July after monitors saw that those on the diuretic had 39 percent fewer fatal strokes and 21 percent fewer deaths from any cause, benefits far exceeding what researchers predicted.

Talk to us

More in Local News

This photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows a submersible vessel named Titan used to visit the wreckage site of the Titanic. In a race against the clock on the high seas, an expanding international armada of ships and airplanes searched Tuesday, June 20, 2023, for the submersible that vanished in the North Atlantic while taking five people down to the wreck of the Titanic. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)
A new movie based on OceanGate’s Titan submersible tragedy is in the works: ‘Salvaged’

MindRiot announced the film, a fictional project titled “Salvaged,” on Friday.

Craig Hess (Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office)
Sultan’s new police chief has 22 years in law enforcement

Craig Hess was sworn in Sep. 14. The Long Island-born cop was a first-responder on 9/11. He also served as Gold Bar police chief.

Cars move across Edgewater Bridge toward Everett on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edgewater Bridge redo linking Everett, Mukilteo delayed until mid-2024

The project, now with an estimated cost of $27 million, will detour West Mukilteo Boulevard foot and car traffic for a year.

Lynn Deeken, the Dean of Arts, Learning Resources & Pathways at EvCC, addresses a large gathering during the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Cascade Learning Center on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New EvCC learning resource center opens to students, public

Planners of the Everett Community College building hope it will encourage students to use on-campus tutoring resources.

Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman announces his retirement after 31 years of service at the Everett City Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett police chief to retire at the end of October

Chief Dan Templeman announced his retirement at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. He has been chief for nine years.

Boeing employees watch the KC-46 Pegasus delivery event  from the air stairs at Boeing on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Boeing’s iconic Everett factory tour to resume in October

After a three-year hiatus, tours of the Boeing Company’s enormous jet assembly plant are back at Paine Field.

A memorial for a 15-year-old shot and killed last week is set up at a bus stop along Harrison Road on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Teen boy identified in fatal shooting at Everett bus stop

Bryan Tamayo-Franco, 15, was shot at a Hardeson Road bus stop earlier this month. Police arrested two suspects.

Woman killed in crash on Highway 99 in Lynnwood

Police closed off Highway 99 between 188th Street SW and 196th Street SW while they investigated.

Mike Bredstrand, who is trying to get back his job with Lake Stevens Public Works, stands in front of the department’s building on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Lake Stevens, Washington. Bredstrand believes his firing in July was an unwarranted act of revenge by the city. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lake Stevens worker was fired after getting court order against boss

The city has reportedly spent nearly $60,000 on attorney and arbitration fees related to Mike Bredstrand, who wants his job back.

Most Read