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Reduced renal function is predictive of poor cardiovascular outcomes but the predictive value of different measures of renal function is uncertain.We compared the value of estimated creatinine clearance, using the Cockcroft–Gault formula, with that of estimated glomerular filtration rate (GFR), using the Modification of Diet in Renal Disease (MDRD) formula, as predictors of cardiovascular outcome in 15 245 high-risk hypertensive participants in the Valsartan Antihypertensive Long-term Use Evaluation (VALUE) trial. For the primary end-point, the three secondary end-points and for all-cause death, outcomes were compared for individuals with baseline estimated creatinine clearance and estimated GFR < 60 ml/min and ≥ 60 ml/min using hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals. Coronary heart disease, left ventricular hypertrophy, age, sex and treatment effects were included as covariates in the model.For each end-point considered, the risk in individuals with poor renal function at baseline was greater than in those with better renal function. Estimated creatinine clearance (Cockcroft–Gault) was significantly predictive only of all-cause death [hazard ratio = 1.223, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.076–1.390; P = 0.0021] whereas estimated GFR was predictive of all outcomes except stroke. Hazard ratios (95% CIs) for estimated GFR were: primary cardiac end-point, 1.497 (1.332–1.682), P < 0.0001; myocardial infarction, 1.501 (1.254–1.796), P < 0.0001; congestive heart failure, 1.699 (1.435–2.013), P < 0.0001; stroke, 1.152 (0.952–1.394) P = 0.1452; and all-cause death, 1.231 (1.098–1.380), P = 0.0004.These results indicate that estimated glomerular filtration rate calculated with the MDRD formula is more informative than estimated creatinine clearance (Cockcroft–Gault) in the prediction of cardiovascular outcomes.