Saturday, July 01, 2006

Newer drugs for hypertension patients

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Health authorities are looking to replace beta blockers as the first-line treatment for high blood pressure after a British study revealed that newer drugs offer better protection against stroke, heart attack and diabetes.
However, they will continue to be used as the main prescription for other complications such as angina and heart failure because beta blockers have been proven to prolong the life of patients with these cardiovascular conditions.
The Health Ministry’s Pharmaceutical Services Division director Datuk Mohd Zin Che Awang said the findings of the new study by Britain’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) will be discussed with the director-general of Health, Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican.
They are also in process of assessing how many Malaysians are prescribed beta blockers for high blood pressure.
Beta blockers are drugs which block certain receptors in the heart called beta receptors.
The beta receptors receive signals which generally increase the heart rate. If the heart rate is abnormally fast and uneven, beta blockers will help stabilise the rate and rhythm of contractions.
Mohd Zin said doctors will prescribe newer drugs like ACE inhibitors, calcium channels and diuretics for high blood pressure.
"Hypertension patients who are on beta blockers need not panic.
"They can continue taking them, but their doctors will gradually replace them with the newer drugs," he added.
Patients must be gradually weaned off the drugs under a doctor’s supervision, especially young patients and pregnant women.
NICE reviewed its guidelines on the use of beta blockers after the results of the Anglo-Scandinavian Cardiac Outcomes Trial were published in the Lancet medical journal.
The study found that while beta blockers reduce the chances of complications like stroke by about 20 per cent, the newer drugs are 40 per cent more effective.

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