Background: Whether chlorthalidone is superior to hydrochlorothiazide for preventing major adverse cardiovascular events in patients with hypertension is unclear.
Methods: In a pragmatic trial, we randomly assigned adults 65 years of age or older who were patients in the Department of Veterans Affairs health system and had been receiving hydrochlorothiazide at a daily dose of 25 or 50 mg to continue therapy with hydrochlorothiazide or to switch to chlorthalidone at a daily dose of 12.5 or 25 mg. The primary outcome was a composite of nonfatal myocardial infarction, stroke, heart failure resulting in hospitalization, urgent coronary revascularization for unstable angina, and non-cancer-related death. Safety was also assessed.
Results: A total of 13,523 patients underwent randomization. The mean age was 72 years. At baseline, hydrochlorothiazide at a dose of 25 mg per day had been prescribed in 12,781 patients (94.5%). The mean baseline systolic blood pressure in each group was 139 mm Hg. At a median follow-up of 2.4 years, there was little difference in the occurrence of primary-outcome events between the chlorthalidone group (702 patients [10.4%]) and the hydrochlorothiazide group (675 patients [10.0%]) (hazard ratio, 1.04; 95% confidence interval, 0.94 to 1.16; P = 0.45). There were no between-group differences in the occurrence of any of the components of the primary outcome. The incidence of hypokalemia was higher in the chlorthalidone group than in the hydrochlorothiazide group (6.0% vs. 4.4%, P<0.001).
Conclusions: In this large pragmatic trial of thiazide diuretics at doses commonly used in clinical practice, patients who received chlorthalidone did not have a lower occurrence of major cardiovascular outcome events or non-cancer-related deaths than patients who received hydrochlorothiazide. (Funded by the Veterans Affairs Cooperative Studies Program; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT02185417.).
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