Sydney, March 7 : Managing single risk factors like blood pressure rather than looking at overall risk may be wasting scarce resources in countries where cardiovascular disease (CVD) is on the rise, a new study finds.
Researchers looked at country-specific levels of CVD, associations with socio-demographic factors and whether WHO guidelines on the use of blood pressure medication were being followed.
They found a higher risk of CVD in lower educated and non-employed people, an overuse of medicines in people at lower levels of CVD risk and an underuse of medicines in people at higher risk across all countries.
Lead investigator Professor David Peiris from The George Institute for Global Health said that the findings challenged perceptions that CVD is a disease of affluence and suggested precious resources could be better allocated if risk was assessed more wholistically.
“Shifting treatments away from people at lower levels of risk towards higher risk groups may have the greatest potential to generate benefit both at the individual and health system levels,” he said.
CVD is the leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for over 17 million deaths equivalent to 233 deaths per 100,000 people in 2017, around seven times greater than number of deaths reported from the Covid-19 pandemic to date.
For the study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, the research team in volved 600,484 adults from 45 countries.
The study found an underuse of medicines in people at higher risk of CVD across all countries — only 24 per cent of men and just over 40 per cent of women at high CVD risk were taking BP medication as recommended by treatment guidelines.
However, 47 per cent of all BP medication was being used by people at low CVD risk who, according to guidelines, did not have a medical need to do so.
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