Objective: To compare the blood pressure-lowering efficacy, the frequency of side effects and changes in laboratory values of three beta-blockers and a potassium-sparing diuretic combination in elderly hypertensive patients.
Design: The Swedish Trial in Old Patients with Hypertension (STOP-Hypertension) was a prospective, randomized, double-blind, multicentre trial comparing active antihypertensive treatment with placebo in patients aged 70-84 years.
Methods: The study group consisted of 1627 elderly hypertensive patients (mean +/- SD age 75.7 +/- 3.7 years; 37% males, 63% females). Supine and standing blood pressure, heart rate and side effects were recorded at each visit. Blood was drawn for routine analysis. The mean length of follow-up was 25 months (range 6-65). No patient was lost to follow-up.
Results: After 2-months' single-drug therapy, all four active drugs were found to be equally effective in reducing diastolic blood pressure (DBP). However, there were differences in their efficacy in reducing systolic blood pressure (SBP); the diuretic was significantly more effective than the beta-receptor blockers. The results of a series of multiple linear regression analyses showed that the observed differences in effect on SBP could not be explained by the different effects of the drugs on heart rate. More than two-thirds of the patients were given supplementary treatment, most of them already by the 2-month visit, after which there was no significant difference in blood pressure among the treatment regimens. The changes in laboratory values and in the prevalence of symptoms were minor for all four regimens.
Conclusion: Metoprolol (controlled release), atenolol, pindolol and the combination hydrochlorothiazide + amiloride were equally effective as single drugs in reducing DBP. There were differences in their efficacy in reducing SBP, the diuretic being more effective than the beta-blockers. After addition of supplementary treatment (beta-blocker to diuretic, or vice versa) there were no significant differences in blood pressure reduction among the groups. The changes in laboratory values and in the prevalence of symptoms were minor for all active treatment regimens. Thus, the satisfactory effect on cardiovascular morbidity and mortality was not impaired by low tolerability of the drugs.