Food and Drug Administration Regulation of Drugs That Raise Blood Pressure

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Abstract

Although it is recognized that a systolic blood pressure (SBP) increase ≥2 mm Hg or a diastolic blood pressure (DBP) increase ≥1 mm Hg increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes in middle-aged adults, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lacks an adequate policy for regulating medications that increase blood pressure (BP). Some FDA reviewers consider a clinically significant increase in BP to occur only if a drug raises SBP ≥20 mm Hg or if a drug raises DBP ≥10 to 15 mm Hg. In recent years, numerous drugs have been regulated or taken off the market due to cardiovascular safety concerns. The list includes rofecoxib (Vioxx), valdecoxib (Bextra), nonselective nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, sibutramine (Meridia), and phenylpropanolamine. It is probable that the hypertensive effect of these drugs explains why they increase the risk of adverse cardiovascular events. Other drugs, notably serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors and drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, were approved without cardiovascular safety data despite the fact that they raise BP comparable to valdecoxib and sibutramine. It is the responsibility of the FDA to ensure that drugs are properly labeled regarding risk. Even if a drug raises BP only modestly, FDA guidelines for new drug approvals should include a requirement for cardiovascular safety data. However, such guidelines will not address the problem of how to obtain cardiovascular safety data for the many already approved drugs that increase BP. The FDA should play a role in obtaining cardiovascular safety data for such drugs.

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