Saturday, May 20, 2006

Not enough sick patients? Change the definition of sick!

High blood pressure is a good example.

When I went to medical school in the late 80s, doctors were taught that normal blood pressure was the patient's age plus 100, over 90. So if you were 60 years old, a blood pressure reading of 160/90 (160 over 90) was considered normal.

These guidelines reflected the fact that the systolic blood pressure (the higher number) rises with age because blood vessels narrow and become more rigid.

Since then more and more stringent guidelines have been developed, until we were told that a normal adult blood pressure was 120/80. Anything else was high blood pressure and should be treated.

But that just went out the door. According to the new "official" guidelines, 120/80 puts you in a new disease category called "prehypertension" and at increased risk for heart attack, stroke, or kidney disease.

65 million Americans have high blood pressure under the 120/80 definition. This has resulted in a $17 billion market for blood pressure drugs.

But—and here’s the beauty in the new guidelines—another 59 million Americans are right on the borderline and prime candidates for treatment if the new definition is accepted by doctors. You do the math and you’ll understand that a few champagne corks are popping at drug company headquarters.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is prehypertension like all young women now being prepregnant?