Around half of people with high blood pressure (hypertension) are being given drugs they don't need, and which won't reduce the risk of heart disease or even death.
Their hypertension is mild, and it doesn't need to be managed by antihypertensive drugs, say experts. It's never been proven the drugs reduce the risk of heart disease or death, and yet they cost health services around the world enormous sums. In the US, prescribing the drugs for mild cases costs around $32bn a year, which represents a third of the nation's total expenditure on public health.
The drugs also increase the risk of adverse events, such as falls, and stop people from adopting healthier lifestyles, such as better diet, exercise and weight loss, all of which can help reduce blood pressure.
Around 40 per cent of adults have hypertension, and half of these have a mild form of the condition, which doesn't need drug therapy.
The researchers believe antihypertensives for mild hypertension is another example of 'over-medicalization', and they urge doctors to be more honest with patients, and explain the limitation of the drugs.
(Source: British Medical Journal, 2014; 349: g5432)