Letter: One report should not alarm patients

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Sir: Any news item prominently positioned on the front page of the Independent, coupled with a leading article, must be read seriously. Your report (10 April) of an American study claiming a higher risk of heart attack in patients suffering from high blood pressure who are taking calcium channel blocking drugs, will cause concern among doctors and their patients.

Since the full data have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, British doctors will not have had the opportunity to evaluate this study or judge its scientific worth. Very few British doctors would have attended the meeting in the United States where the study was presented, or have had the opportunity to question its authors. As a consequence, they will be seriously disadvantaged in attempting to answer the questions posed by those patients who have read your reports.

The inference of your leading article is that the case against calcium channel blocking drugs is proven. I suggest that the evidence should be thoroughly examined first and in the meantime, doctors and patients should be guided by the sensible advice issued by both the American Heart Association and the British Heart Foundation, which recommend that current clinical practice is not altered until the results of prospective carefully controlled studies, which are under way, are available. Calcium channel blocking drugs are not new. They have been prescribed regularly for more than 20 years.

Yours faithfully,

W. A. LITTLER

Department of Cardiovascular

Medicine

Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Edgbaston, Birmingham

13 April

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