Intended for healthcare professionals

Practice Observed

Nifedipine and atenolol singly and combined for treatment of essential hypertension: comparative multicentre study in general practice in the United Kingdom

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988; 296 doi: (Published 13 February 1988) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988;296:468
  1. Nifedipine-Atenolol Study Review Committee


    A randomised double blind parallel group study was performed to compare the efficacy and acceptability of slow release nifedipine (maximum dose 40 mg twice a day) with those of atenolol (maximum dose 100 mg once a day) as single agents for the treatment of essential hypertension. Of 410 patients recruited almost exclusively from general practices in 22 centres in the United Kingdom 210 received nifedipine and 200 atenolol. Both drugs significantly reduced blood pressure, and control—a reduction of the diastolic pressure to less than 95 mm Hg—was obtained in about 65% of patients. Those who received nifedipine had more pronounced reductions in systolic pressure than those who received atenolol. One hundred and forty nine patients who failed to respond adequately to either atenolol or nifedipine in low doses were given both drugs once daily for eight weeks in a fixed combination capsule that contained atenolol 50 mg and nifedipine 20 mg. All patients showed further reductions in blood pressure, although those who were taking β atenolol before the combination capsule had more pronounced reductions in systolic pressures. Twenty six patients (12%) were withdrawn because of adverse effects while taking nifedipine compared with 19 (10%) taking atenolol. Flushing and oedema were more common after the calcium antagonist, whereas diarrhoea and dyspepsia were more common after atenolol. The frequencies of headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and dyspnoea were equally distributed between the two groups. When the fixed combination capsule was taken side effects such as flushing and oedema continued.

    Nifedipine was more effective than atenolol in lowering systolic blood pressure, although neither drug used alone controlled the pressure of more than two thirds of the patients studied. When used in a fixed combination slightly better control of blood pressure was achieved with a lower dose of each drug.