Stephanie Saul Seeks to Avoid the Truth About Hypertension

  • by: |
  • 05/22/2006

Stephanie Saul has found the formula to make the front page of the NY Times: write article about the Rx industry that depict their products as unsafe or demonstrate an unholy link between clinical guidelines and industry support. Oh, and ignore the facts when you have to in order to keep the story line in shape. The most recent example of Stephanie’s shameless stylistics is today’s article entitled, “Unease on Industry’s Role in Hypertension Debate ” which starts out by noting that drug companies paid $700k ” to a medical society that used most of the money on a series of dinner lectures last year to brief doctors on the latest news about high blood pressure…. The same three companies â Merck, Novartis and Sankyo â also gave the money that the medical society used to formulate the main talking point of those briefings, an expanded concept of high blood pressure that many doctors say would increase the number of people taking drugs. …”

Let’s get one thing straight first. Most people with hypertension don’t take drugs and those that do fail to take them regularly or appropriately. So is it a bad thing to increase the numbe rof people taking drugs given the fact that high blood pressure is the leading cause of strokes and heart attack in the world and taking such drugs will cut strokes 35 to 40 percent and heart attacks 20 to 25 percent?

Now what Stephanie is talking about is something call pre-hypertension. No one seems to quibble about treating pre-cancer though fewer people die from cancer than heart disease but no matter. Or that from both a mechanistic and epidemiological level is pretty flat out certain that both elevation of blood pressure and lipid levels begin early in life, even in childhood in some people. Didn’t read that in Stephanie’s screed? What a suprise. High blood pressure was listed as a primary or contributing cause of death in about 277,000 American deaths in the year 2003. About 69 percent of people who have a first heart attack, 77 percent of those who have a first stroke, and 74 percent of patients with heart failure have blood pressure higher than 140/90 mmHg. Since blood pressure rises rapdily the idea is to prevent the exponential rise by getting to people who are on the cusp before it does as a way to stop hypertension before it starts. On the number of people on the cusp — prehypertenion — have been rising rapidly as well. So researchers wanted to see if you could slow the progression to hypertension by giving folks on the cusp blood pressure drugs. It did.

But all Stephanie could see was that Astra Zeneca paid for the study, not the potential public health beneifits of lowering blood pressure earlier than ever or the the fact that efforts to do so through diet and exercise alone have been a miserable failure. Obesity epidemic anyone?

Also, she left out some interesting facts. That the two “heroes” of her piece, Steve Nissen and Jean Sealey, have problems of their own. Nissen, medical director of the Cardiovascular Coordinating Center at The Cleveland Clinic, as followers of this blog know, abused his position as a FDA media talking head and FDA advisory committee member along with another malcontent on Stephanie’s speed dial, Curt Furberg, MD to recommend a black box warning on drugs for ADHD in order to slow what he characterized as the âout of control growthâ use of the drugs.
Meanwhile Stephanie depicts Sealey leaving the professional association of hypertension specialists as a principled decision and a outgrowth over a battle about Rx influence. In fact, Sealey was on the verge of being forced to resign for reasons that are being investigated by the New York State Attorney General. Amazing how that never made it into the New York Times. It’s enough to give you pre-high blood pressure.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

Blog Roll

Alliance for Patient Access Alternative Health Practice
Better Health
Biotech Blog
CA Medicine man
Cafe Pharma
Campaign for Modern Medicines
Carlat Psychiatry Blog
Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry: A Closer Look
Conservative's Forum
Club For Growth
Diabetes Mine
Disruptive Women
Doctors For Patient Care
Dr. Gov
Drug Channels
DTC Perspectives
Envisioning 2.0
FDA Law Blog
Fierce Pharma
Fresh Air Fund
Furious Seasons
Gel Health News
Hands Off My Health
Health Business Blog
Health Care BS
Health Care for All
Healthy Skepticism
Hooked: Ethics, Medicine, and Pharma
Hugh Hewitt
In the Pipeline
In Vivo
Internet Drug News
Jaz'd Healthcare
Jaz'd Pharmaceutical Industry
Jim Edwards' NRx
Kaus Files
Laffer Health Care Report
Little Green Footballs
Med Buzz
Media Research Center
More than Medicine
National Review
Neuroethics & Law
Nurses For Reform
Nurses For Reform Blog
Opinion Journal
Orange Book
Peter Rost
Pharm Aid
Pharma Blog Review
Pharma Blogsphere
Pharma Marketing Blog
Pharmacology Corner
Pharmaceutical Business Review
Piper Report
Prescription for a Cure
Public Plan Facts
Real Clear Politics
Shark Report
Shearlings Got Plowed
Taking Back America
Terra Sigillata
The Cycle
The Catalyst
The Lonely Conservative
Town Hall
Washington Monthly
World of DTC Marketing
WSJ Health Blog