Despite widespread availability of a large body of evidence in the area of hypertension, the translation of that evidence into viable recommendations aimed at improving the quality of health care is very difficult, sometimes to the point of questionable acceptability and overall credibility of the guidelines advocating those recommendations.
The scientific community world-wide and especially professionals interested in the topic of hypertension are witnessing currently an unprecedented debate over the issue of appropriateness of using different drugs/drug classes for the treatment of hypertension. An endless supply of recent and less recent "drug-news", some in support of, others against the current guidelines, justifying the use of selected types of drug treatment or criticising other, are coming out in the scientific literature on an almost weekly basis. The latest of such debate (at the time of writing this paper) pertains the safety profile of ARBs vs ACE inhibitors.
To great extent, the factual situation has been fuelled by the new hypertension guidelines (different for USA, Europe, New Zeeland and UK) through, apparently small inconsistencies and conflicting messages, that might have generated substantial and perpetuating confusion among both prescribing physicians and their patients, regardless of their country of origin.
The overwhelming message conveyed by most guidelines and opinion leaders is the widespread use of diuretics as first-line agents in all patients with blood pressure above a certain cut-off level and the increasingly aggressive approach towards diagnosis and treatment of hypertension. This, apparently well-justified, logical and easily comprehensible message is unfortunately miss-obeyed by most physicians, on both parts of the Atlantic.
Amazingly, the message assumes a universal simplicity of both diagnosis and treatment of hypertension, while ignoring several hypertension-specific variables, commonly known to have high level of complexity, such as:
- accuracy of recorded blood pressure and the great inter-observer variability,
- diversity in the competency and training of diagnosing physician,
- individual patient/disease profile with highly subjective preferences,
- difficulty in reaching consensus among opinion leaders,
- pharmaceutical industry's influence, and, nonetheless,
- the large variability in the efficacy and safety of the antihypertensive drugs.
The present 2-series article attempts to identify and review possible causes that might have, at least in part, generated the current healthcare anachronism (I); to highlight the current trend to account for the uncertainties related to the fixed blood pressure cut-off point and the possible solutions to improve accuracy of diagnosis and treatment of hypertension (II).