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National Charity, Blood Pressure UK, has added its support to the statement made by professional body the British Hypertension Society (BHS) endorsing the use of single pill combination treatments in patients with high blood pressure (hypertension).
Many patients with high blood pressure have to take two, three or sometimes more medications to control it which can be confusing and expensive, and something many people are loath to do every day of their life.
The combination pills, which contain two or three different blood pressure medicines at specific doses and known as fixed-drug combinations (FDCs), make taking these medicines simpler, less time-consuming, and cheaper for patients.
Back in 2004, the BHS guidelines for the treatment of high blood pressure actually recommended the use of these drugs ‘when no disadvantages of cost exist’, yet a 2011 review of blood pressure management by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) which was produced in collaboration with the BHS was forced to overlook their use as a mainstream treatment because they fell outside the pre-specified NICE remit. This meant they ceased to be an option for most prescribers and patients.
The UK falls behind much of the rest of Europe in using FDCs, which exist in many different formulations, for the management of high blood pressure but studies suggest they could have many benefits including as a first-line therapy.
The British Hypertension Society, which is the UK professional body of clinical experts in high blood pressure, issued their statement to clarify their own position with respect to the use of FDCs in anticipation of further guidelines updates.
They endorse the use of FDCs on the grounds that the tablets often contain lower doses of drugs than would be prescribed if the medications were prescribed individually, so are tolerated well with fewer side effects than might otherwise be expected. For this reason and due to their ease of use i.e. one pill instead of many, patients are happier to continue with their medicine regimen.
This can only be a good thing. Reduced blood pressure means reduced strokes and heart attacks, which in turn means fewer lives devastated reducing the financial burden on relatives and on the healthcare system.
Cost savings exist elsewhere too. In most cases, the FDCs are cheaper to buy than the sum of their parts and of course patients pay only one prescription charge.
Earlier this year, Health Economist Dr Jonathan Belsey conducted an analysis of GP data, comparing the outcomes and costs of using single pill combinations versus individual component tablets over a five-year period. The study was published in the Journal of Medical Economics.
Dr Belsey said,
“Our analysis of GP data showed that if patients have their hypertension treated with combination pills rather than individual component tablets, they are less likely to be admitted to hospital for heart attacks, strokes, angina and related conditions.
“This is presumably because patients are more likely to take their medication properly if the number of tablets is kept to a minimum. “Using single tablet combinations could therefore be hugely beneficial, not only improving outcomes for patients, but also saving NHS costs by reducing the number of hospital admissions for serious complications.”
Blood Pressure UK CEO, Paul Newman, commented,
“From a patient’s perspective, these tablets could represent the end of taking lots of different medicines, possibly at different times of the day and at significant expense.
“Simplifying the management of high blood pressure and making it easier on the pocket is something that many thousands of patients would welcome.
“Blood Pressure UK supports the British Hypertension Society’s statement endorsing the use of these medicines to treat high blood pressure.”
Notes to Editors:
• To contact the Blood Pressure UK Press Office, call Dr Claire McLoughlin on 020 8772 4992 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
• Blood Pressure UK is the UK’s leading blood pressure charity working to lower the nation’s blood pressure. The charity provides information and support for people with high blood pressure and raises awareness to prevent the condition. For more information visit the charity’s main website at www.bloodpressureuk.org or call 020 8772 4994.
• Blood Pressure UK is an on operating name of the Blood Pressure Association.