Atherosclerosis and calcium antagonists: The VHAS

A. Zanchetti, B. Magnani, C. Dal Palu

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Whether or not some classes of antihypertensive drugs have an anti-atherogenic action independent of the antihypertensive one has been investigated through a large series of experimental studies, primarily involving calcium antagonists. Most experimental investigations have shown a significant anti-atherogenic action of calcium antagonists, but only when the drug is administered simultaneously with the atherogenic stimulus (mainly cholesterol feeding). When the drug is administered weeks or months after the beginning of the atherosclerotic process (as in the Watanabe heritable hyperlipidemic rabbit), with a single exception, no anti-atherogenic effect has been shown. The few clinical studies completed so far have been on symptomatic coronary patients. Little is known of the effects of calcium antagonists on asymptomatic lesions in the carotid arteries of hypertensive patients, in whom carotid plaques can be identified and followed-up by non-invasive ultrasound techniques. However, two such trials are underway. The Verapamil in Hypertension Atherosclerosis Study (VHAS) is an ongoing randomized trial, comparing the antihypertensive efficacy of verapamil 240 mg SR with chlorthalidone 25 mg in 1,464 essential hypertensives aged 40-65 years. In a random subgroup of patients (500), who will be followed for three years, B-mode ultrasonography is being carried out blindly to evaluate the effect of the two drugs on carotid wall thickness and on carotid plaques, when present. Preliminary baseline data are available in 440 of the hypertensive patients in whom ultrasound investigation was performed. The mean (± SD) age of these patients was 53.7 ± 6.9 years; 32.5% had echocardiographically normal carotid walls; 30.9% showed intima-media thickening; and 36.6% had one or more plaques. The most interesting result to date is the high prevalence (67.5%) of asymptomatic carotid alterations in a randomly selected sample of middle-aged hypertensive subjects.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Human Hypertension
Issue numberSUPPL. 2
Publication statusPublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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