HYPERTENSION: A 'Disease' To Please The Drug Companies
Drug companies need growing markets, and for that they need diseases and health problems.
One very lucrative example is hypertension, or high blood pressure, which because of the way it's now being defined affects around 40 per cent of the population in the West.
There's even a new class of 'disease' called pre-hypertension.
All of this is wonderful news to the drugs industry. The global hypertension market in 2002 was worth around US$36 billion, with the top four antihypertensives alone generating annual sales of US$8 billion.
Not that the more liberal definition, agreed in America by the U.S. Joint National Committee on the Treatment and Prevention of Hypertension, is helping to prevent heart disease.
A patient with hypertension is no more likely to develop a heart condition than someone who hasn't been classified with high blood pressure.
This throws up another interesting fact - there's no necessary causal connection between heart problems and high blood pressure, except possibly at the very high end of the spectrum.
So why does medicine keep chasing the hypertension myth?
It's partly historical, says Prof S McMahon from the University of Sydney, and it grew from concern about malignant hypertension, a genuinely serious, but very rare, condition.
But don't expect any change in the near future.
Commercial pressures from the drugs industry are too great for that, he says. (Source: The Lancet, 2005; 365: 1108-9).
* Find out how the drugs industry influences - and sometimes invents - diseases in the WDDTY book, Secrets of the Drugs Industry.
It lifts the lid on the most profitable industry in the West.
WDDTY e-News Broadcast - 14 April 2005