Concerns over unnecessary treatment of mild high blood pressure

Experts have warned that the overprescription of blood pressure drugs is wasting billions of dollars and may be putting patients at risk. Up to 40% of adults worldwide have high blood pressure (hypertension), about half of whom are considered to have a ‘mild’ case—which wouldn’t have even been called hypertension before doctors lowered their threshold for diagnosing it.


Now a new term has even been invented—‘prehypertension’—for people with blood pressure levels on the high end of the normal range. About half of people with mild hypertension take a drug to lower it, but there’s actually very little evidence that the drug will help them, and plenty of evidence that they carry some risk. For example, people are more likely to suffer from a fall when taking a blood pressure-lowering drug.

Writing in the prestigious British Medical Journal, the authors argue that people with mild high blood pressure should be evaluated for their overall risk of cardiovascular disease before being prescribed a drug. In addition to the danger to patients, the article also stressed the waste of resources coming from the overtreatment of mild high blood pressure. In the US, we spend about $32 billion each year just on the treatment of mild hypertension—more than 1% of annual healthcare costs—and much of this expense may be completely unnecessary.(Source: BMJ, 2014; 349 (sep12 2): g5432 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.g5432)

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