This report, about findings of an important clinical trail about the treatment of high blood pressure with generic drugs in the elderly, follows many best practices for health journalism.
The story could have been improved in two ways:
One final observation: Because the study is British, the two medications studied are not the most commonly prescribed in the diuretic and ACE inhibitor classes in the U.S. This would have been useful to note to help patients talk to their doctors about these drugs.
While the drugs used are inexpensive generics, it would have been useful to cite the costs in some way–per day, per month, per year, etc. For those paying out of pocket for their medications – particularly elderly on fixed incomes – the costs of even generics can add up after they are on several medications.
The story uses considerable detail to specify how much the treatments reduced overall mortality, stroke, and death from stroke, cardiovascular events or heart failure.
The story also reports the mean reduction in blood pressure in the treatment group.
The only shortcoming here is that the article reports percent reduction in risk without indicating the underlying risk of the cited outcomes (death, strokes, etc.)
The article reports that lowering blood pressure below 150 systolic could lead to dizziness. But it does not mention other side effects associated with ACE inhibitors and diuretics.
The article is based on a randomized, controlled, multi-center clinical trial published in a top-rank medical journal.
The article does nothing to exaggerate the severity or frequency of hypertension.
Sources include the study’s lead investigator; a prominent researcher in the field not connected to the study; the author of an editorial published with the study; and the paper itself.
The article discloses, in the last paragraph, the financial relationships that may compromise the researchers’ objectivity.
The story would have been improved if an independent geriatric clinician were interviewed to put the findings in context of typical treatment in this group.
The article does not report on other treatments for hypertension in the elderly.
The article makes clear that the anti-hypertensive drugs studied are widely available.
The article does not suggest that use of these well-established generic drugs to control hypertension is novel.
But it does make clear that the findings–that treatment in this population reduces risks of death and some cardiovascular diseases–is new.
The article is based on a published study presented at a medical conference, not a press release.