The Role of Plasma Renin Activity, Age, and Race in Selecting Effective Initial Drug Therapy for Hypertension

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Strategies for initial drug therapy of hypertension are a thiazide diuretic for all or drug selection based on age/race criteria or on plasma renin activity (PRA). It is uncertain which of these strategies will achieve the highest control rate among patients with stage 1 essential hypertension. We sought to compare control rates among 3 drug selection strategies: (i) thiazide diuretic for all, (ii) thiazide diuretic for all black subjects and white subjects aged ≥50 years and a renin-angiotensin system blocker for white subjects aged <50 years, or (iii) thiazide diuretic for PRA < 0.6ng/ml/h (suppressed PRA) and a renin-angiotensin system blocker for PRA ≥ 0.6ng/ml/h (nonsuppressed PRA).


Blood pressure responses from the Genetic Epidemiology of Responses to Antihypertensives (GERA) study were used to determine control rates for each of the 3 strategies. In GERA, hypertensive adults were treated with hydrochlorothiazide (n = 286 black subjects and 284 white subjects) or with candesartan (n = 248 black subjects and 278 white subjects).


In the overall sample, the PRA strategy was associated with the highest control rate of 69.4% vs. 61.3% with the age/race strategy (P < 0.001) and 53.8% with the thiazide for all strategy (P < 0.001). This was also true in each racial subgroup (in black subjects: 62.1% vs. 55.2% for the other 2 strategies, P = 0.02; in white subjects: 76.3% vs. 67.1% with the age/race strategy (P < 0.001) and 52.4% with the thiazide for all strategy (P < 0.001)).


This exploratory analysis suggests that choice of initial therapy for hypertension using a PRA strategy may be associated with higher control rates than alternative strategies recommended in current guidelines.

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