One of the most popular drugs for treating high blood pressure actually raises the risk of a heart attack by 60 per cent.
Calcium channel blockers have been increasingly prescribed by doctors over the past 10 years, even though their long-term benefits have never been proven by research.
A new study by the University of Washington reveals that calcium channel blockers actually increase the risk of a first heart attack by 60 per cent, compared to diuretics or beta blockers other therapies for lowering blood pressure.
Diuretics and beta blockers were both found to be safer treatments, and are the therapies recommended by the Joint National Committee on the Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Pressure in the US. Despite this, calcium channel blockers and ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors are now more popular.
The Washington study was based on cases of patients with high blood pressure who suffered a first heart attack between 1989 and 1993. In all, they investigated 623 cases, which they compared with 2,032 controls.
The latest findings are in line with earlier research, which showed dangers with using calcium channel blockers and in particular the short-acting diydropyridine category when treating patients who had one heart attack. A Swedish study, carried out in 1993, discovered that the death rate was dramatically increased among patients on calcium channel blockers (JAMA, August 23, 1995).