Hospitals May Overprescribe Blood Pressure Meds, Study Finds

For the study, the researchers reviewed records of nearly 15,000 patients with high blood pressure, aged 65 and older, admitted to a Veterans Affairs hospital between 2011 and 2013 for pneumonia, urinary tract infection or venous thromboembolism (a blood clot). These three conditions usually do not require strict blood pressure control, the study authors said.

Before being admitted to the hospital, 65 percent of the patients had their blood pressure well-controlled.

The researchers found that 14 percent of the patients were discharged with intensified blood pressure therapy, either with higher doses or several medications, even though more than half of this group had well-controlled blood pressure before hospitalization.

Overall, 9 percent of the patients were started on one blood pressure drug, 2 percent on several new blood pressure medications, and 4 percent were discharged on an increased dose of at least one drug, the findings showed.

The strongest predictor of higher drug doses was elevated blood pressure in the hospital. No differences were seen in the rates of increased blood pressure medications in patients less likely to benefit from strict blood pressure control, such as those with limited life expectancy, dementia or metastatic cancer.

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