“Five or more medications” meant total drug burden, both for hypertension and comorbidities. “When you are treating a patient for hypertension, you care about blood pressure, but you also need to care about” what else they are on, and their total drug burden, “because it affects their ability to get to their blood pressure goal, especially if you’re targeting intensive control,” said lead investigator, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado, Aurora.
Good old-fashioned exercise and weight loss remain potent non–pill options, she noted at the joint scientific sessions of AHA Council on Hypertension, AHA Council on Kidney in Cardiovascular Disease, and American Society of Hypertension.
The take-home message is to use more combination drugs for hypertension “to get patients on fewer pills.” Also, “eliminate drugs [patients] don’t need,” said SPRINT investigator, professor of medicine and physiology at the University of Tennessee, Memphis, when asked what he thought of the new findings.
[Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial] found that targeting systolic blood pressures below 120 mm Hg, as compared with less than 140 mm Hg, led to lower rates of MI, stroke, heart failure, and death from any cause.
Medication burden had no effect on patients in the 140 mm Hg group; they achieved a mean systolic blood pressure (SBP) of 136 mm Hg at 1 year, whether they were on fewer than five drugs a day or more. Hitting that target took an average of 1.8 hypertension medications.
Reaching 120 mm Hg generally took one extra drug (an average of 2.8), and the overall pill burden did matter; 2,463 patients in the intensive arm on fewer than five medications dropped their mean SBP 20 mm Hg at one year, while 1,698 taking more than five had a 15–mm Hg reduction. The group with the lower pill burden had a mean SBP of 120.6 mm Hg and those taking five or more had a mean SBP of 122.5 mm Hg. It’s a small difference but likely important.
Comorbidities in SPRINT included kidney and cardiovascular disease, among others, but the trial excluded patients with diabetes. Many patients were on statins and aspirin.
Pharmacy review is especially a good idea in the elderly.
Patients on five or more medications had higher rates of significant adverse events in the post hoc analysis (about 50% versus about 30%), including hypotension, syncope, electrolyte abnormalities, and acute kidney injury, regardless if they were in the 120–mm Hg or 140–mm Hg group.
About 45% in the intensive arm reported high adherence (Morisky Medication Adherence Scale-8 score greater than 8 at 12 months); medication burden made no difference. Oddly, in the standard-treatment arm, more patients on five or more drugs reported high adherence, 44.5% versus 38.1% among patients taking fewer,
The post hoc analysis was based on pill bottle review at baseline. Medication count did not affect hypertension treatment satisfaction, which was about 84% in the intensive and 77% in the standard arm.
There was no industry funding for the work. Dr. Derington didn’t have any disclosures.