At a glance - NICE and BHS team up to reviewhypertension

What's happening?

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is working with the British Hypertension Society (BHS) to review new data on the management of hypertension - more commonly known as high blood pressure.

And why now?

The results of the Anglo-Scandinavian Cardiac Outcome Trial (ASCOT), which evaluated combinations of modern anti-hypertensive drugs compared with older regimes, are to be published soon. NICE clinical and public health director Peter Littlejohns calls it 'potentially significant new evidence' that might have an impact on NICE and BHS hypertension guidelines.

Which products will it affect?

The likes of Merck Sharp & Dohme's Cozaar (losartan), Novartis's Diovan (valsartan), Bristol-Myers Squibb/Sanofi's Aprovel (irbesartan), AstraZeneca/Takeda's Amias (candesartan) and Boehringer Ingelheim's Micardis (telmisartan).

But many of the biggest-selling hypertension brands are now generic, such as Pfizer's Istin (amlodipine besilate) and Cardura (doxazosin mesilate), Sanofi-Aventis's Tritace (ramipril) and AstraZeneca's Zestril (lisinopril dihydrate).

What does this mean in comms terms?

Pharma companies will want to be at the centre of these potential changes which are aimed at influencing and improving the treatment of this group.

Why is the BHS involved?

It produces guidelines for managing hypertension adopted in primary care. It also runs educational programmes for scientists, doctors and other healthcare workers involved in understanding high blood pressure.

And NICE's view is ...?

NICE believes the ASCOT study is likely to have implications for BHS guidelines on the management of hypertension. Collaboration will avoid duplication of effort and reduce the potential for confusion. The aim is to offer guidance to the NHS from a single source.

What happens next?

There is no fixed timescale but the chair of the NICE hypertension guideline development group, which developed the existing NICE rules, will consider the results of the ASCOT study. One of NICE's national collaboration centres will carry out the changes.

- Further information www.bhsoc.org; www.nice.org.uk.

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