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UK recommends new drugs for high blood pressure

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, June 29 (Reuters) A major shake-up in the way doctors are advised to treat high blood pressure was announced by Britain's drugs watchdog.

GPs will no longer offer drugs called beta blockers as a first treatment for the condition.

Instead black people suffering from high blood pressure and all those over 55 will be given a type of medication known as a calcium channel blocker, or a diuretic drug.

Those under 55 will first be treated with a class of medicine known as an ACE inhibitor.

Patients can also be offered a combination of the three drugs.

The advice comes after research showed the newer drugs carry less risk of a heart attack or stroke.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Evidence (NICE) issued the new advice in conjunction with the British Hypertension Society following a review of the treatments available.

''What we have found is that although beta blockers remain effective at reducing stroke and heart disease, they are slightly less effective than alternative forms of treatment,'' said Professor Bryan Williams of University Hospitals NHS Trust in Leicester yesterday.

He told the BBC the watchdog's recommendations would lead to a ''significant reduction'' in stroke and heart disease over the next five years, at the same time saving the NHS around 250 million pounds in treatment costs.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects around 40 percent of adults in England and Wales and the National Health Service spends 15 percent of its drugs budget on treatments for the condition.

REUTERS SY KN0937

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