The Uncertain Future Of A Once Highly Promising Device For Lowering Blood Pressure Reply

Following the spectacular crash and burn of the Symplicity HTN-3 trial at the American College of Cardiology two weeks ago, the future of renal denervation (RDN)– the once highly promising catheter technology that many thought would cure resistant hypertension– appears in doubt.

Although the device has not been approved in the US– and will not be approved without further clinical trials– in Europe and other places it remains on the market. So the questions about the technology’s future revolve around the future direction of research in the field and how the existing renal denervation market will be affected by the trial results.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

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Lower Blood Pressure Found In Vegetarians Reply

A new study provides the strongest evidence yet that a vegetarian diet is strongly associated with lower blood pressure. Although various health benefits of a vegetarian diet have often been proposed, a rigorous examination of the effect on blood pressure has not been previously performed.

In a paper published in JAMA Internal Medicine, Japanese researchers analyzed data from 7 clinical trials, including 311 participants, and 32 observational studies, including 21,604 participants….

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

 

 

 

Blood Pressure Trajectory Over 25 Years Predicts Atherosclerosis Risk Reply

Everyone knows that blood pressure is one of the most important measurements of cardiovascular risk. Less well known is that most studies of blood pressure have relied on single or isolated measurements of blood pressure. Few studies have even attempted to examine the significance of blood pressure patterns over a long period of time.

Now, in a paper published in JAMA, researchers present an analysis of data from 3442 adults who participated in the long-term CARDIA study. Study participants were 18-30 years of age at baseline and had multiple blood pressure measurements over the course of the study. After 25 years, they had a CT scan that measured their coronary artery calcium (CAC) score.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Blood pressure check
Blood pressure check (Photo credit: Army Medicine)

 

 

More Guideline Controversy: Blood Pressure Expert Decries ‘Political Correctness’ Reply

Now add “political correctness” to the long list of criticisms directed against the recent publication of new and updated cardiovascular guidelines. One leading hypertension expert writes that the authors of the recent AHA/ACC/CDC Science Advisory on blood pressure control were chosen not for their expertise but for political expediency.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

Confusion
Confusion (Photo credit: quinn.anya)

Minority Report: Five Guideline Authors Reject Change In Blood Pressure Goal Reply

It didn’t seem possible but the guideline situation just got even more confusing. Last December, after  years of delay and other twists and turns, the Eighth Joint National Committee (JNC 8) hypertension guideline was published in JAMA. The previous guideline recommended that all adults have a target systolic blood pressure below 140 mm Hg. In the new guideline, the target remained the same for adults under 60 years of age but for people over the age of 60 the new guideline set a more conservative, easier-to-achieve target of 150 mm Hg or lower.

Now, however,  five of the 17 JNC 8 authors have written a commentary, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, disagreeing with this change. They say they are in agreement with the other major recommendations of JNC 8 but that they reject the new target, arguing that the evidence does not support the change, and predict that the change may well lead to harmful consequences.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

Confusion

 

Pivotal Medtronic Trial For ‘Breakthrough’ Blood Pressure Device Goes Down The Tubes Reply

The hypertension community woke up this morning to a large dose of reality with an announcement by Medtronic that the novel SYMPLICITY HTN-3 trial of its much-anticipated  renal denervation device had failed to meet its primary efficacy endpoint. Renal denervation has been widely touted as a breakthrough product that could dramatically lower blood pressure by as much as 30 mm Hg, allowing physicians to cure the most severe form of high blood pressure, resistant hypertension.

“SYMPLICITY HTN-3 met its primary safety endpoint related to the incidence of major adverse events one month following randomization and renal artery stenosis to six months,” said Deepak Bhatt, the co-principal investigator of the trial, in the Medtronic press release. “Importantly, however, the trial did not meet its primary efficacy endpoint.”

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Missing High Blood Pressure Guideline Turns Up In JAMA Reply

After  years of delay and many twists and turns, the hypertension guideline originally commissioned by the NIH has now finally been published in JAMA. The evidence-based document contains a major revision of hypertension treatment targets and includes new and somewhat simplified recommendations for drug treatment.

The previous US hypertension guideline was published more than a decade ago. After many delays the new guideline was ready for publication earlier this year, but then the NIH decided to get out of the guidelines business. The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology assumed responsibility for the development and publication of cardiovascular guidelines and last month published four new cardiovascular guidelines, with the notable exception of the hypertension guideline. As an accompanying JAMA editorial explains:  “Rather than go through an additional review process with the AHA and the ACC the authors decided to publish their guideline in JAMA on their own.”

The big headline of the new guideline is an important change in treatment targets.

Click here to read the full story on Forbes.

Original illustration by Max Husten

Original illustration by Max Husten

Saying Sorry May Not Be Good Enough For Novartis Reply

Novartis has issued a formal apology over misconduct relating to valsartan (Diovan) research in Japan, but that apology does not appear likely to satisfy the Japanese Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, which plans to fully investigate the company’s role in the scandal. If necessary, ministry officials are prepared to raid the company’s offices in Japan.

A Novartis official apologized to the Japanese public for the apparent manipulation of data. David Epstein, the head of the pharmaceutical division at Novartis, met with the Japanese health minister. “We express our deep regret for the concern that the issue has brought to patients, to the medical society as well as the ministry,” Epstein was quoted by Reuters after the meeting. He said the company was “willing to work with” Japanese investigators and will “take additional actions and potential sanctions in order to bring the issue to a good conclusion.”

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

Realistic Expectations For New ‘Breakthrough’ Blood Pressure Technology Reply

Early trials of renal denervation, the innovative new catheter-based blood pressure lowering technology,  have resulted in extremely impressive drops in systolic blood pressure in the range of 30 mm Hg. These results have sparked a great deal of excitement in the hypertension community and stirred the interest of a multitude of medical device companies. Some experts have proclaimed renal denervation a potential “cure” for resistant hypertension, perhaps enabling a significant number of patients to eliminate all drug therapy. Other expanded uses of the technology in more moderate forms of hypertension and other diseases are under active consideration. Now, however, a new analysis of the available data suggests the troubling possibility that renal denervation may not be nearly as effective in cutting blood pressure as had been suggested in the earlier trials. Rather than reducing systolic blood pressure by 30 mm hg, the new analysis suggests that a more realistic estimate of the effect of renal denervation may be a much more modest reduction of about 11 mm Hg.

A paper published online in Heart  demonstrates that the large reductions in blood pressure seen so far in clinical trials of renal denervation may be a consequence of certain key aspects in the design of these trials. The apparent blood pressure lowering effect of renal denervation has been greatly magnified because the trials have been uncontrolled, unblinded, and have utilized office-based blood pressure measurements rather than the far more reliable and consistent ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM).

Click here to read the full story on Forbes.

Kaiser Program Yields Big Improvements In Hypertension Control Reply

A large percentage of the 65 million people with high blood pressure in the United States do not know they have hypertension or have not succeeded in controlling their hypertension. Although many programs have been proposed, there is little evidence that any method can produce long term improvement in hypertension control.

In a paper published in JAMA, researchers at Kaiser Permanente report the outcomes achieved with a large-scale multi-pronged approach to hypertension control. The program included a comprehensive hypertension registry and the development and sharing of performance metrics. Electronic medical records were used to encourage optimal treatment, while patients were offered free medical assistant follow-up visits and simplified medication regimens, including the use of single-pill combination therapy. Physicians were encouraged to use algorithms derived from evolving evidence.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Possible Cognitive Benefits Found In Dementia Patients Taking Centrally Acting ACE Inhibitors Reply

An observational study from Ireland raises the intriguing possibility that certain blood pressure lowering drugs, centrally acting ACE inhibitors, may help slow the cognitive decline that is a hallmark of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

The study, published in BMJ Open, followed the rates of cognitive decline in 3 groups of patients: dementia patients being treated with centrally acting ACE inhibitors, dementia patients being treated with non-centrally acting ACE inhibitors, and dementia patients newly treated with centrally acting ACE inhibitors.

Click here to read the entire post on Forbes.

 

 

New European Hypertension Guidelines Released With Simplified Blood Pressure Target Reply

New hypertension guidelines from the European Society of Hypertension and the European Society of Cardiology were released in Milan today at the European Meeting on Hypertension & Cardiovascular Protection.

The authors of the guidelines write that “despite overwhelming evidence that hypertension is a major cardiovascular risk, studies show that many are still unaware of the condition, that target blood pressure levels are seldom achieved”. They report that hypertension affects 30-45% of people in Europe.

Perhaps the biggest single change in the new document is the adoption of a single systolic blood pressure target for almost all patients: 140 mmHg, This replaces the previous, more complicated target, which included both systolic and diastolic recommendations for different levels of risk (140/90 mmHg for moderate to low risk patients and 130/80 mmHg target for high risk patients).  One of the authors, Robert Fagard, commented: “there was not enough evidence to justify two targets.”

Click here to read the full story on Forbes.

 

 

Promising One Year Results For Renal Denervation In Resistant Hypertension Spark Hype Reply

Denervation of the renal sympathetic nerve may become an important new tool in the fight against resistant hypertension.  Previously, the main results of the Symplicity HTN-2 trial demonstrated that in selected patients renal denervation resulted in a large and highly significant reduction in systolic blood pressure (BP) at six months. Now, longer followup from the trial, published in Circulation, demonstrates that the benefits at 6 months extend to one year, and that control patients who crossed over to renal denervation also experienced large reductions in BP.

For 47 patients with resistant hypertension, the reduction in systolic BP at one year (−28.1 mm Hg) was similar to the reduction at 6 months (31.7 mm Hg). For 35 control patients  who crossed over to renal denervation after six months, mean systolic BP dropped from 190.0±19.6 before the procedure to 166.3±24.7 mm Hg. The authors reported one case of renal artery dissection in the crossover group, which was fixed with renal artery stenting, and one episode of hypotension, which was fixed with a medication adjustment.

The results, according to a clinical perspective accompanying the article, suggest that “radiofrequency ablation of renal nerves can significantly lower blood pressure in patients with systolic blood pressures >160 mm Hg with no loss of treatment effect through 1 year and thus may provide a safe and effective adjunctive therapy for treatment-resistant hypertensive patients.”

Comment: Excitement about renal denervation has been growing in recent years. At least some of the optimism may well be warranted. But, for now, the greatest danger is hype. Here’s the #4 item on the AHA’s list, released just this week, of the top advances of 2012:

“Disconnecting” the kidneys might be the key to treating high blood pressure

What does that mean, “the key to treating high blood pressure?” As an invasive procedure, renal denervation will never be more than a important therapeutic option after lifestyle and polypharmacy have failed. I applaud the AHA for highlighting this important new technology, but I think it should have used more cautious wording.

Get ready for much worse. Gullible or naive reporters and editors have already fallen into the trap. Here’s the headline and opening sentences of a story that appeared earlier today in TheStar.com:

Zapping kidneys with radio waves could cure high blood pressure, study finds

In what’s being described as a potential public health miracle, a new study shows that zapping the kidneys with radio waves can safely and dramatically lower blood pressure.

“It makes one dizzy to think about the next set of benefits that follow,” said Dr. Clyde Yancy, head of cardiology at Chicago’s Northwestern University.

This is almost a textbook example of how science and medicine stories should not be reported. It’s important to activate your BS detector whenever you see words like “cure” and “miracle” in a health story. Renal denervation is not a cure and it’s not a miracle. If things work out, it may represent a welcome and significant advance for some patients with resistant hypertension.

To be fair, the rest of the story contains some great quotes and perspective from Clyde Yancy. But by then the damage has been done. It’s impossible to be rational in the presence of cures and miracles. Of course, any reporter can slip at some point and buy into the hype. We’re not perfect. But it helps if the reporter has some prior knowledge and experience in the field. I’m assuming this reporter had little background in this field, since no experienced health reporter would describe renal denervation as “bathing the kidneys in radio waves.” It’s hard enough for physicians and grizzled journalists to figure this kind of stuff out. This is no spot for learning on the job.

But let’s not blame the reporter. He was probably just doing his job as best he could, on a deadline and with few resources. He should be congratulated for getting a good interview with Clyde Yancy. The larger problem here is the way most media treat health, medicine and science stories. Breakthroughs and cures aren’t everyday events, except in the filler pages of tabloids, and on news broadcasts and websites, where scientific inflation is an everyday occurrence. In this context, scientific reporting becomes, essentially, worthless. If everything is a breakthrough then nothing is a breakthrough.
Click here to read the Medtronic press release…

Should Body Weight Influence Choice of Antihypertensive Therapy? 1

The hypertension field has been troubled by repeated observations that normal weight patients have more cardiovascular (CV) events than obese patients. Now a new analysis of a large hypertension trial confirms this finding but also suggests that it may be explained by either an adverse effect of diuretics or a protective effect of calcium-channel blockers in non-obese hypertensives.

Michael Weber and colleagues analyzed data from more than 11,000 patients randomized in the ACCOMPLISH trial to shed light on this problem. In 2008 the main results of the trial showed that the combination of benazepril and amlodipine (calcium channel blocker group, CCB) was superior to the combination of benazepril and hydrochlorothiazide (diuretic group) in reducing CV events in high risk hypertensive patients.

The new analysis, published online in the Lancet, confirmed earlier observations and found significant differences in outcome based on weight. However, the differences in outcome occurred mostly in the diuretic group. In the diuretic group, the rate for the primary endpoint was significantly different between the groups (30.7 events per 1,000 patient-years in normal weight patients, 21.9 in overweight patients, and 18.2 in obese patients, p=0.0034). In the CCB group the rates were not significantly different (18.2, 16.9, and 16.5).

To explain their finding the investigators proposed that “hypertension in obese and lean patients is probably mediated by different forms of underlying pathophysiology.” Obese patients, who are more likely to have increased plasma volume and cardiac output, will be responsive to diuretics, while lean patients are more likely to have involvement of the sympathetic and renin-angiotensin systems. They concluded that “diuretic-based regimens seem to be a reasonable choice in obese patients in whom excess volume provides a rationale for this type of treatment, but thiazides are clearly less protective against cardiovascular events in patients who are lean. An alternative therapeutic regimen that includes a calcium channel blocker such as amlodipine, which works equally well across all BMI categories, provides an advantage with respect to clinical outcomes in patients who are not obese.”

In an accompanying comment, Franz Messerli and Sripal Bangalore write that the effectiveness of hydrochlorothiazide in obese people in ACCOMPLISH “has little if anything to do with obesity per se, but simply reflects the fact that among obese patients there was a preponderance of individuals at risk for heart failure who were prone to respond well to diuretic treatment.” They argue that “amlodipine-based treatment should be used irrespective of body size” for the indication of hypertension. Diuretics, on the other hand, should be used for the prevention of left-ventricular dysfunction.
Click here to read the press release from the Lancet…