Bogus blood-pressure study a billion-dollar scheme

You can toss that reminder card in the trash. And forget about reading all those old issues of People magazine in the waiting room.

Because it looks like you don’t even need to go to your next doctor’s appointment any more.

A bunch of docs and researchers you’ve never even met have just diagnosed you — and practically everyone you know — with high blood pressure.

It doesn’t matter if you feel fine or if your numbers haven’t changed in years. A major new study wants to radically lower blood pressure targets to just about guarantee you end up on drugs.

It’s part of a new scheme to create millions of new customers for Big Pharma.

And patients like you could end up leaving your doctor’s office with a prescription for risky meds — and a one-way ticket to Alzheimer’s.

The moving magic number
Doctors everywhere are getting ready to throw old blood pressure guidelines — and common sense — right out the window.

Dr. Marc Alan Pfeffer, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, should know.

He’s one of them.

Just a couple weeks ago, if you were in your 50s and came to see Dr. Pfeffer with a top (systolic) blood pressure reading of 136, he says he would have patted you on the back and said “good job.”

Now, he says he’d feel “obligated” to put you on powerful prescription drugs.

It’s all because of a new study (one I warned you was coming a month ago) called SPRINT.

And that’s the right name for it, too. Because it’s nothing but a mad dash — written by researchers with drug company ties — to get just about everyone on blood pressure meds.

The authors followed more than 9,000 patients for about three years, and they claim we should practically all be medicated until our top blood pressure is down to 120. And they don’t care if you have to take multiple drugs to get there!

I’m talking about ACE inhibitors, diuretics, you name it — some of the most dangerous drugs on the planet. Pills that have been linked to everything from permanent organ damage to blindness!

Now, these researchers will tell you that the risks of these drugs is a small price to pay to prevent a stroke. But when I started digging around the SPRINT study, that’s not what I found at all.

For example, here are just some of the facts that the researchers (and their pawns in the media) weren’t so quick to report:

  • The participants were cherry picked. The authors set up guidelines that disqualified 11 out of every 12 Americans from participating in SPRINT. But now they want to apply the results to all of us! That’s awfully convenient for the drug companies — but it doesn’t make any sense for you.
  • The numbers were fudged: Even the New York Times reported that medicating your blood pressure down to 120 cut death rates by 26 percent. Sounds great, right? Well, not so fast. Swallowing pills by the handful only reduced your death risk from about 4 percent to 3 percent. That’s an awful lot of risk for one measly percent.
  • Millions of people will be medicated for nothing: It took 200 people taking meds to prevent ONE serious health event.

So what happens to the other 199 people? Well, nobody wants to talk about them.

The poor folks who took meds for the study ended up with dangerously low blood pressure, kidney problems, and even dangerous fainting episodes.

And if the study had gone on longer (they suspiciously cut it short) the results could have been even more tragic. That’s because driving your blood pressure too low can literally choke off the blood supply to your brain, putting you at risk for dementia or Alzheimer’s.

It’s the whole reason that last year a committee of some of the world’s top heart doctors officially raised the number that is considered high blood pressure. Those researchers found that readings of up to 150/90 in people 60 and older should not call for any medications to be started.

And that makes a lot more sense to me than treating blood pressure guidelines like a limbo stick, where the mainstream keeps lowering the bar.

Unfortunately, you can bet that a copy of the SPRINT study is being sent to just about every doctor in America. And lots of them will use it to send the number of drugs they prescribe through the roof.

But at your next appointment, make sure you don’t leave your doctor’s office with a shiny new prescription.

Because your health decisions should be based on real science — not manipulated data and moving targets.

Sources:

“3 things to know about the Sprint blood pressure trial” Harlan M. Krumholz, M.D., November 9, 2015, The New York Times, well.blogs.nytimes.com

“Data on benefits of lower blood pressure brings clarity for doctors and patients” Gina Kilata, November 9, 2015, The New York Times, nytimes.com