Conference Coverage

NHLBI hands off hypertension guidelines to ACC, AHA


The two U.S. groups most active in issuing guidelines and recommendations for cardiovascular disease diagnosis and management, the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association, received a surprise in June when the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute suddenly announced that it would shift to these and other "partner organizations" primary responsibility for the next updates of U.S. hypertension guidelines, national cholesterol-management guidelines, and the other cardiovascular disease–related management recommendations that the institute has had in the works.

The NHLBI launched "a collaborative relationship with the ACC, AHA, and other organizations because they said they are not in a position to endorse guidelines, they must be endorsed by other organizations," said Dr. Sidney C. Smith Jr., professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Dr. Smith is a member of the panel that’s been writing the Eighth Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure (JNC 8), and has been active for a long time in the ACC and AHA guidelines-development process.

Dr. Sidney C. Smith, Jr.,

On June 19, Dr. Gary H. Gibbons, NHLBI director, and his associates announced that effective immediately the institute was getting out of the guidelines-issuing business (Circulation 2013; doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.113.004587).

"Just over the past couple of months we began to look at how this will be done. Everyone wants the process to move quickly. How quickly can these organizations put it together? That’s the limiting factor right now," Dr. Smith said in an interview in early September.

While the ACC and AHA have on record some 20 sets of practice guidelines that cover most facets of cardiology, their list omits areas that the NHLBI covered in the past, notably hypertension and hypercholesterolemia assessment and management.

"The ACC and AHA guideline process is very expensive, and we wouldn’t dream of duplicating something when people you trust were commissioned by someone else [NHLBI] to do the work," said Dr. Kim Allan Williams Sr. of Wayne State University, Detroit. Dr. Williams will take the position of professor of medicine and chief of cardiovascular services at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago on Nov. 1. He serves as vice-president of the ACC. "We have all been under the impression that JNC 8 was being put together and getting published soon," he said in an interview.

Dr. Williams stressed that he and other ACC officials have pledged not to talk about the JNC 8 process until transition from the NHLBI works itself out, but he offered this succinct observation: The ACC "has made a commitment to go forward with the JNC process. There will be a publication from that panel, although it may not have that name."

Dr. Smith and Dr. Williams said that they had no relevant disclosures.

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