Blood pressure pill offers diabetics a longer life

A team of Australian researchers say a once-a-day pill to lower blood pressure should be given routinely to people with diabetes to prevent heart disease, strokes and other medical complications.

The researchers from the George Institute for International Health who are based in Sydney say a pill which combines two blood pressure lowering drugs, reduced the risk of serious illness and death from cardiovascular disease, even in patients without high blood pressure.

The team of doctors reached this conclusion after a trial of 11,000 people with type 2 diabetes who were tracked over a 4½ year period.

The patients were recruited from 215 medical centres across 20 countries and each was given either a placebo or a daily pill which was a combination of 4mg of a blood vessel relaxant called perindopril with 1.25mg of a diuretic called indapamide even though only half of the patients had high blood pressure.

The doctors found at the end of the trial period that deaths from cardiovascular disease were 4.6% in the placebo group and 3.8% among those taking the pill, which represents a reduction of 18%.

It was also found that deaths from any cause also fell, from 8.5% among the placebo group to 7.3% of those taking the blood pressure pill, a drop of 14%.

The side effects of the pill include coughing and changes in blood metabolites, but the researchers say the drop-out rates were similar among both placebo and pill-taking patients.

They say the treatment showed it can prolong life by preventing heart disease, strokes and reduced the risk of serious illness and death from cardiovascular disease, even in patients without high blood pressure.

They suggest that if the pill was prescribed to half the world's population with type 2 diabetes, it would prevent more than a million deaths over five years.

The University of Sydney researchers announced their findings at a meeting of the European Society of Cardiology in Vienna this week.

Dr. Stephen MacMahon, a professor of cardiology at the university's George Institute, where the trial was coordinated, says the study suggests there is a case for considering the treatment routinely for patients with type 2 diabetes.

More than 250 million people worldwide have type 2 diabetes, and most will eventually die or be disabled by the complications of the disease.

The most common cause of death is heart disease, but kidney disease also affects a large proportion.

In 2006, the United Nations called for increased international action to combat the global epidemic of diabetes.

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