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Saturday, 6 April, 2002, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
Blood pressure recovery gene found
pills pour
A gene test could help doctors spot which drugs are working
A genetic screening test could reveal the likelihood that a key blood pressure drug will prevent heart attacks and strokes, say experts.

People with a certain genetic variant are only half as likely to suffer them after taking diuretic drugs, suggests their research.

Raised blood pressure, or hypertension, over a long period of time increases the chance of hardened arteries, which in turn can contribute to heart attacks or strokes.

Patients with the problem are often given various drugs to reduce the problem, including diuretics.

These drugs work by forcing the kidney to get rid of excess salt, which is a well-known contributor to high blood pressure.

Despite these treatments, some people still go on to have serious health problems.

The latest finding, by scientists at the University of Washington, may help doctors work out if the drug is proving a success.

If you are taking medicines for high blood pressure, and if you are not on a low-dose diuretic, it is reasonable to ask your physician why not

Dr Bruce Psaty
University of Washington
They found that patients with a variant of a particular gene called alpha-adducin were 50% less likely to have a heart attack or stroke, compared with similar patients taking other blood pressure medications.

The group looked at more than 300 patients with high blood pressure who had already suffered a non-fatal heart attack or stroke between 1995 and 1998.

Approximately one-third of these had the variant gene.

Dr Bruce Psaty, from the University of Washington, said it was clear evidence that more patients should be given low-dose diuretics as well as other blood pressure medication.

He said: "If you are taking medicines for high blood pressure, and if you are not on a low-dose diuretic, it is reasonable to ask your physician why not.

"If these findings are confirmed in other sutides, screening for the adducin variant could identify hypertensive patients especially likely to benefit from low-dose diuretic therapy."

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