Purpose: Previous guidelines for the management of uncomplicated hypertension in elderly patients have recommended diuretic agents and then beta-blockers. We examined trends in the initial treatment choice for elderly people with hypertension and the effects of a government-sponsored program to publish and disseminate a simplified version of the national guidelines for the treatment of hypertension to all physicians in Ontario, Canada.
Subjects and methods: Linked administrative databases containing information on the more than 1.2 million elderly residents in Ontario were used. Time series analysis was performed to determine prescribing trends from 1993 to 1998 for patients who began antihypertensive medication for the treatment of hypertension and to examine the effects of the simplified guidelines that were distributed in July of 1995.
Results: Diuretic agents were the most commonly prescribed medications, with annual rates from 35% to 38% (P = 0.59) throughout the study. Beta-blocker prescribing rose from 12% to 16% (P <0.01), whereas angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor prescribing rose from 27% to 32% (P <0.01). Prescriptions for calcium channel blockers dropped significantly, from 23% to 14% (P <0.01). However, the publication and dissemination of the Ontario hypertension guidelines had no statistically significant effects on the proportion of patients who began treatment with a diuretic agent (P = 0.55), beta-blocker, (P = 0.32), ACE inhibitor (P = 0.09), or calcium channel blocker (P = 0.07).
Conclusion: The dissemination of simplified practice guidelines for hypertension did not have notable effects on prescribing patterns in Ontario.