Originally created 12/31/98

Study: High blood pressure not treated aggressively enough



BOSTON -- A new study suggests doctors shouldn't be so quick to blame the patient when attempts to lower a person's blood pressure fail.

The study of Veterans Administration clinics found that doctors often fail to switch drugs or prescribe higher doses even when their patients' blood pressure is clearly too high.

In these cases, the study found, poor access to care or patients' unwillingness to take their medicine cannot completely explain the failure to control blood pressure.

"Physicians themselves must accept some responsibility for the problem," the doctors wrote.

The study, directed by Dr. Dan R. Berlowitz of the VA hospital in Bedford, Mass., was published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

The doctors examined the care of 800 men with high blood pressure who were treated at five VA clinics in New England over a two-year period. About 40 percent of them had blood pressure that was above 160 over 90, despite making an average of more than six visits a year for hypertension.

The doctors found that the men's medication was increased on just under 7 percent of the visits.

The doctors also frequently failed to try different treatments.