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The William Harvey Research Institute - Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry

Optimising treatments for high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease could save lives, according to researchers

A recent study shows that optimising medicines for high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease patients living in East London could reduce lifetime hospital costs and prevent cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes.

Blue pills

Blue pills. Credit: FotografiaBasica/

In the study, funded by Barts Charity, researchers evaluated gaps in blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering statin treatments for patients who had been diagnosed with high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease (CVD).

The team, which included researchers from Queen Mary’s Wolfson Institute of Population Health and William Harvey Research Institute studied over one million people living in East London in 2019 to understand treatment gaps. Their findings show that 27 per cent of patients with high blood pressure and 38 per cent of patients with CVD do not currently receive optimal treatments for their conditions.

The researchers then developed a model to predict the cardiovascular events that could be avoided, years and quality-adjusted life years gained, and healthcare costs saved, with optimised treatments. The results suggest that over five years, full optimisation of blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering medications could prevent almost 1000 heart attacks, strokes or related deaths from hypertension or cardiovascular disease. And over the patients’ lifetime, full optimisation could save over £50 million in hospital costs.

The researchers suggest that even a modest 10 per cent improvement in medicine optimisation could have a significant impact on this patient population.

Dr Runguo Wu, Health Economist from Queen Mary’s Wolfson Institute of Population Health and first author of the study, said: “These results show that optimising cardiovascular treatments can cost-effectively reduce cardiovascular risk and improve life expectancy.”

CVD is the most common cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, and high blood pressure and high cholesterol are two key risk factors.

The study used data from over 100 primary care practices from the City and Hackney, Newham, and Tower Hamlets clinical commissioning groups. The local authorities covered by these NHS services are among the 10 per cent most socially deprived areas in England, and the diverse population includes large South Asian and Black British, African, and Caribbean ethnic groups.

Improvements through training and support

Primary care practices in east London are looking to implement a programme to optimise blood pressure and lipid control to improve the quality of CVD management and reduce health inequality in the population. A key element of this is training and assistance for in-practice pharmacists and practice teams.

Queen Mary’s Clinical Effectiveness Group (CEG) are supporting this work via several initiatives including REAL-HEALTH Cardiovascular and the Redbridge CVD statin initiative. CEG also provide tools and resources for NHS GP practices across North East London with support from a dedicated primary care support team.

Find out more about CEG’s tools and support for cardiovascular disease and hypertension management

More information

  • Research publication: 'Gaps in antihypertensive and statin treatments and benefits of optimisation: a modelling study in a 1 million ethnically diverse urban population in UK' Wu et al. BMJ Open DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-052884



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