First-line diuretics versus other classes of antihypertensive drugs for hypertension

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Abstract

Background: Different first-line drug classes for patients with hypertension are often assumed to have similar effectiveness with respect to reducing mortality and morbidity outcomes, and lowering blood pressure. First-line low-dose thiazide diuretics have been previously shown to have the best mortality and morbidity evidence when compared with placebo or no treatment. Head-to-head comparisons of thiazides with other blood pressure-lowering drug classes would demonstrate whether there are important differences. Objectives: To compare the effects of first-line diuretic drugs with other individual first-line classes of antihypertensive drugs on mortality, morbidity, and withdrawals due to adverse effects in patients with hypertension. Secondary objectives included assessments of the need for added drugs, drug switching, and blood pressure-lowering. Search methods: Cochrane Hypertension's Information Specialist searched the Cochrane Hypertension Specialized Register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, and trials registers to March 2021. We also checked references and contacted study authors to identify additional studies. A top-up search of the Specialized Register was carried out in June 2022. Selection criteria: Randomized active comparator trials of at least one year's duration were included. Trials had a clearly defined intervention arm of a first-line diuretic (thiazide, thiazide-like, or loop diuretic) compared to another first-line drug class: beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, alpha adrenergic blockers, angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers, direct renin inhibitors, or other antihypertensive drug classes. Studies had to include clearly defined mortality and morbidity outcomes (serious adverse events, total cardiovascular events, stroke, coronary heart disease (CHD), congestive heart failure, and withdrawals due to adverse effects). Data collection and analysis: We used standard Cochrane methodological procedures. Main results: We included 20 trials with 26 comparator arms randomizing over 90,000 participants. The findings are relevant to first-line use of drug classes in older male and female hypertensive patients (aged 50 to 75) with multiple co-morbidities, including type 2 diabetes. First-line thiazide and thiazide-like diuretics were compared with beta-blockers (six trials), calcium channel blockers (eight trials), ACE inhibitors (five trials), and alpha-adrenergic blockers (three trials); other comparators included angiotensin II receptor blockers, aliskiren (a direct renin inhibitor), and clonidine (a centrally acting drug). Only three studies reported data for total serious adverse events: two studies compared diuretics with calcium channel blockers and one with a direct renin inhibitor. Compared to first-line beta-blockers, first-line thiazides probably result in little to no difference in total mortality (risk ratio (RR) 0.96, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.84 to 1.10; 5 trials, 18,241 participants; moderate-certainty), probably reduce total cardiovascular events (5.4% versus 4.8%; RR 0.88, 95% CI 0.78 to 1.00; 4 trials, 18,135 participants; absolute risk reduction (ARR) 0.6%, moderate-certainty), may result in little to no difference in stroke (RR 0.85, 95% CI 0.66 to 1.09; 4 trials, 18,135 participants; low-certainty), CHD (RR 0.91, 95% CI 0.78 to 1.07; 4 trials, 18,135 participants; low-certainty), or heart failure (RR 0.69, 95% CI 0.40 to 1.19; 1 trial, 6569 participants; low-certainty), and probably reduce withdrawals due to adverse effects (10.1% versus 7.9%; RR 0.78, 95% CI 0.71 to 0.85; 5 trials, 18,501 participants; ARR 2.2%; moderate-certainty). Compared to first-line calcium channel blockers, first-line thiazides probably result in little to no difference in total mortality (RR 1.02, 95% CI 0.96 to 1.08; 7 trials, 35,417 participants; moderate-certainty), may result in little to no difference in serious adverse events (RR 1.09, 95% CI 0.97 to 1.24; 2 trials, 7204 participants; low-certainty), probably reduce total cardiovascular events (14.3% versus 13.3%; RR 0.93, 95% CI 0.89 to 0.98; 6 trials, 35,217 participants; ARR 1.0%; moderate-certainty), probably result in little to no difference in stroke (RR 1.06, 95% CI 0.95 to 1.18; 6 trials, 35,217 participants; moderate-certainty) or CHD (RR 1.00, 95% CI 0.93 to 1.08; 6 trials, 35,217 participants; moderate-certainty), probably reduce heart failure (4.4% versus 3.2%; RR 0.74, 95% CI 0.66 to 0.82; 6 trials, 35,217 participants; ARR 1.2%; moderate-certainty), and may reduce withdrawals due to adverse effects (7.6% versus 6.2%; RR 0.81, 95% CI 0.75 to 0.88; 7 trials, 33,908 participants; ARR 1.4%; low-certainty). Compared to first-line ACE inhibitors, first-line thiazides probably result in little to no difference in total mortality (RR 1.00, 95% CI 0.95 to 1.07; 3 trials, 30,961 participants; moderate-certainty), may result in little to no difference in total cardiovascular events (RR 0.97, 95% CI 0.92 to 1.02; 3 trials, 30,900 participants; low-certainty), probably reduce stroke slightly (4.7% versus 4.1%; RR 0.89, 95% CI 0.80 to 0.99; 3 trials, 30,900 participants; ARR 0.6%; moderate-certainty), probably result in little to no difference in CHD (RR 1.03, 95% CI 0.96 to 1.12; 3 trials, 30,900 participants; moderate-certainty) or heart failure (RR 0.94, 95% CI 0.84 to 1.04; 2 trials, 30,392 participants; moderate-certainty), and probably reduce withdrawals due to adverse effects (3.9% versus 2.9%; RR 0.73, 95% CI 0.64 to 0.84; 3 trials, 25,254 participants; ARR 1.0%; moderate-certainty). Compared to first-line alpha-blockers, first-line thiazides probably result in little to no difference in total mortality (RR 0.98, 95% CI 0.88 to 1.09; 1 trial, 24,316 participants; moderate-certainty), probably reduce total cardiovascular events (12.1% versus 9.0%; RR 0.74, 95% CI 0.69 to 0.80; 2 trials, 24,396 participants; ARR 3.1%; moderate-certainty) and stroke (2.7% versus 2.3%; RR 0.86, 95% CI 0.73 to 1.01; 2 trials, 24,396 participants; ARR 0.4%; moderate-certainty), may result in little to no difference in CHD (RR 0.98, 95% CI 0.86 to 1.11; 2 trials, 24,396 participants; low-certainty), probably reduce heart failure (5.4% versus 2.8%; RR 0.51, 95% CI 0.45 to 0.58; 1 trial, 24,316 participants; ARR 2.6%; moderate-certainty), and may reduce withdrawals due to adverse effects (1.3% versus 0.9%; RR 0.70, 95% CI 0.54 to 0.89; 3 trials, 24,772 participants; ARR 0.4%; low-certainty). For the other drug classes, data were insufficient. No antihypertensive drug class demonstrated any clinically important advantages over first-line thiazides. Authors' conclusions: When used as first-line agents for the treatment of hypertension, thiazides and thiazide-like drugs likely do not change total mortality and likely decrease some morbidity outcomes such as cardiovascular events and withdrawals due to adverse effects, when compared to beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, and alpha-blockers.

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Reinhart, M., Puil, L., Salzwedel, D. M., & Wright, J. M. (2023, July 13). First-line diuretics versus other classes of antihypertensive drugs for hypertension. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. John Wiley and Sons Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD008161.pub3

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