Background: Trials of drug therapy for hypertension have shown that such therapy has a clear overall benefit in preventing cardiovascular disease. Although these trials have included slightly more women than men, it is still not clear whether treatment benefit is similar for both sexes.
Objective: To quantify the average treatment effect in both sexes and to determine whether available data show significant differences in treatment effect between women and men.
Design: Subgroup meta-analysis of individual patient data according to sex. Analysis was based on seven trials from the INDANA (INdividual Data ANalysis of Antihypertensive intervention trials) database and was adjusted for possible confounders.
Patients: 20,802 women and 19,975 men recruited between 1972 and 1990.
Interventions: Primarily beta-blockers and thiazide diuretics.
Results: In women, treatment effect was statistically significant for stroke (fatal strokes and all strokes) and for major cardiovascular events. In men, it was statistically significant for all categories of events (total and specific mortality, all coronary events, all strokes, and major cardiovascular events). The odds ratios for any category of event did not differ significantly between men and women. In absolute terms, the benefit in women was seen primarily for strokes; in men, treatment prevented as many coronary events as strokes. Graphical analyses suggest that these results could be completely explained by the difference in untreated risk.
Conclusions: In terms of relative risk, treatment benefit did not differ between women and men. The absolute risk reduction attributable to treatment seemed to depend on untreated risk. These findings underline the need to predict accurately the untreated cardiovascular risk of an individual person in order to rationalize and individualize antihypertensive treatment.