Spin doctors soft pedal data on antihypertensives

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 18 January 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:170
  1. Jeanne Lenzer (, freelance journalist
  1. New Paltz, New York, USA

    The results of a major study that compared different classes of antihypertensives have drug company spin doctors working overtime. It's no easy job to save market share for expensive antihypertensive drugs when headlines read “When Cheaper Is Also Better,” as one did in the New York Times on 19 December 2002.

    The “antihypertensive and lipid lowering to prevent heart attack trial” (ALLHAT), published in the 18 December issue of JAMA (2002;288;2981-97), shows that calcium channel blockers and angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors used to treat hypertension were no better than a diuretic. In some instances they were not quite as safe—even though they were substantially more expensive.

    But the spin doctors are swinging into action to counter the clear message of ALLHAT that cheaper is better, even if that means just playing it down. Kevin Brode, vice president of sales and marketing at marketRx, a firm that provides strategic marketing information to the pharmaceutical industry, isn't too worried about who the winner will be. “Doctors say they'll …

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