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J Hypertens. 2005 Nov;23(11):2093-100.

Patterns of persistence with antihypertensive medications in newly diagnosed hypertensive patients in Italy: a retrospective cohort study in primary care.

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  • 1Health Search, Italian College of General Practitioners, Florence.



To describe patterns of persistence and related primary care costs associated with first antihypertensive treatment.


Retrospective cohort study during 2000-2001, using information from 320 Italian general practitioners.


We studied 13 303 patients with newly diagnosed hypertension, who received a first single antihypertensive prescription within 3 months after diagnosis.


Persistence with first-line single treatment, categorized as follows: continuers: patients continuing the first-line medication for at least 1 year; combiners: patients receiving an additional antihypertensive drug and continuing the initial medication; switchers: patients changing from the first-line to another class of antihypertensive drug and discontinuing the initial treatment; discontinuers: patients stopping the first-line treatment without having another prescription until the end of the follow-up. Primary care costs were expressed as the cost of hypertension management per person-year of follow-up.


In the study cohort, 19.8% were continuers, 22.1% were combiners, 15.4% were switchers, and 42.6% were discontinuers. Continuation was greatest with angiotensin II type 1 receptor blocking agents (25.2%), calcium channel blockers (23.9%) and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (23.3%). Severe hypertension [hazards ratio 1.30; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.18 to 1.43] and severe health status (hazards ratio 1.22; 95% CI 1.15 to 1.30) increased the risk of discontinuation. The likelihood of needing an additional antihypertensive drug was associated with mild-to-severe baseline blood pressure, diabetes (hazards ratio 1.20; 95% CI 1.06 to 1.36), and familial history of cardiovascular disease (hazards ratio 1.24; 95% CI 1.10 to 1.39). Discontinuers accounted for 22.4% of the total primary care cost. Initial treatment with angiotensin II type 1 receptor blocking agents and beta-blockers resulted in incremental primary care costs of 145.2 and 144.2, respectively, compared with diuretics. Combiners and switchers increased the primary care cost by 140.1 and 11.7, compared with continuers.


Persistence with first-line single antihypertensive drugs is extremely low during the first year of treatment. Potential cost saving should be possible by reducing the high frequency of discontinuation. Diuretics represent the least expensive therapeutic option, although further investigations in the long-term are needed to analyse the effects of persistence on therapeutic effectiveness and related costs.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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