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Key Clinical Updates in Drug Therapy: Current Antihypertensive Agents

The side effects of many antihypertensive medications are more pronounced in women than men, including ACE inhibitor-associated cough and hyponatremia and hypokalemia in response to diuretics.

Blood pressure treatment goals should be individualized in the very elderly.

There are many classes of antihypertensive drugs of which six (ACE inhibitors, ARBs, renin inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, diuretics, and beta-blockers) are suitable for initial therapy based on efficacy and tolerability. A number of considerations enter into the selection of the initial regimen for a given patient. These include the weight of evidence for beneficial effects on clinical outcomes, the safety and tolerability of the drug, its cost, demographic differences in response, concomitant medical conditions, and lifestyle issues. The specific classes of antihypertensive medications are discussed below, and guidelines for the choice of initial medications are offered.

A. Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors

ACE inhibitors are commonly used as the initial medication in mild to moderate hypertension (Table 11–6). Their primary mode of action is inhibition of the RAAS, but they also inhibit bradykinin degradation, stimulate the synthesis of vasodilating prostaglandins, and can reduce sympathetic nervous system activity. These latter actions may explain why they exhibit some effect even in patients with low plasma renin activity. ACE inhibitors appear to be more effective in younger white patients. They are relatively less effective in blacks and older persons and in predominantly systolic hypertension. Although as single therapy they achieve adequate antihypertensive control in only about 40–50% of patients, the combination of an ACE inhibitor and a diuretic or calcium channel blocker is potent.

Table 11–6.Antihypertensive drugs: renin and ACE inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers.

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