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The NHLBI/ALLHAT Blood Pressure Drug: Science or Politics?

Wednesday March 2003

Moderator: Robert M. Goldberg, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute, Director, Center for Medical Progress
Participants: Mark Houston, MD., Director, Hypertension Institute, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Principal Investigator, ALLHAT Study Editor-in-Chief, Journal of the American Nutraceutrical Association; Franz Messerli, MD, Director, Clinical Hypertension, Ochsner Clinic Foundation, Editor, Human Hypertension; Ralph Hawkins, MD, Professor of Medicine, University of Tennessee; Michael Weber, MD, Associate Dean & Professor of Medicine, SUNY Health Science Center Immediate Past President, American Society of Hypertension, Editor, American Journal of Hypertension

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute recently received a lot of attention for its ALLHAT (Antihypertensive and Lipid-Lowering Treatment to Prevent Heart Attack Trial) study that, it maintains, found that patients on older drugs (diuretics) have fewer strokes and less heart failure than patients on newer medications (calcium channel blockers and ACE inhibitors). The Institute claims the cheaper diuretic drugs should replace other medication in every instance.

This briefing brings together a lead investigator of the study—along with three other of the nation’s experts on high blood pressure—who argues the NHLBI is practicing politics, not science, with the study. They contend that NHLBI’s conclusion is NOT supported by the ALLHAT study or a more recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Did politics—the desire to join the effort to control health care spending by limiting access to new medicines—skew the science behind ALLHAT and did the media fail to report the real story about the hypertension study? This briefing—with America’s leading experts on hypertension—will examine these tough issues.