September 17, 2008

Drug Combo Reduces Heart Attack Deaths

Patients with high blood pressure who took a diuretic and a potassium-sparing drug, reduced cardiac mortality by 40 percent, U.S. researchers said.

The current U.S. hypertension treatment guidelines recommend using a thiazide diuretic -- a drug that increases the volume of urine -- alone as the initial drug therapy for high blood pressure, senior author Dr. John Oates said.

The Vanderbilt University Medical Center researchers analyzed data from existing clinical trials of diuretic drugs and said that using the combination of drugs call into question the current treatment guidelines.

"It was very striking," Oates said in a statement. "The recommendations can now be re-examined in light of these new findings."

Observational studies previously had found an increase in sudden cardiac death in patients taking a thiazide diuretic alone, and one showed that sudden death was greater at higher doses of thiazides, Oates said. Studies in animal models of heart attacks also have demonstrated that low potassium levels -- caused by thiazide diuretics -- can spark the abnormal heart rhythms that lead to sudden death.

The findings are published in the Journal of the American Society of Hypertension.