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Wednesday, 20 March, 2002, 14:46 GMT
Blood pressure drug could save lives
Blood pressure
High blood pressure is a widespread problem
A blood pressure drug has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of strokes.

Doctors say it could potentially save the lives of tens of thousands of people each year in the UK.


It is the most close thing to a magic bullet

Dr Andrew Wijnberg
The drug, losartan, was compared with the beta blocker atenolol in a seven-year trial on 9,000 patients who had high blood pressure and thickening of the left chamber of the heart.

Beta blockers are known to reduce the risk of stroke by 40% and of a heart attack by 20%.

But losartan was found to reduce the risk of stroke by a further 25%. It also cut deaths from combined heart attack and stroke by a further 13%.

The drug also produced fewer side effects.

Already available

Losartan is already available on the NHS, but doctors believe it should now be used on a more widespread basis.


The results of this are set to dramatically and positively affect the way high blood pressure is treated in the UK

Eve Knight
Researcher Dr Andrew Wijnberg, a GP in Birmingham, said: "It is the most close thing to a magic bullet.

"Hypertension is an enormous problem affecting 10 million Britons and is the single most preventable cause of stroke.

"Up until now the guidelines have been to prescribe older drugs such as atenolol because there has been no evidence to show losartan has additional benefits.

"From today onwards GPs should seriously consider why patients should not receive this drug."

Eve Knight, director of the British Cardiac Patients Association said the results of the trial were good news for patients, their families and carers.

She said: "The results of this are set to dramatically and positively affect the way high blood pressure is treated in the UK."

Eoin Redahan of the Stroke Association said the results were "extraordinarily exciting".

Losartan costs 18.19 per month compared with 5 for atenolol.

However, the Stroke Association said the cost should be weighed against the potential savings in treating stroke patients.

The research will be published in The Lancet.

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 ON THIS STORY
The Stroke Association's Eoin Redahon
"Stroke is the major cause of adult disability"
See also:

31 Jan 02 | Health
Flu jabs cut stroke risk
11 Jan 02 | Health
Aspirin 'could save thousands'
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