Animal experiments have shown that the administration of calcium antagonists can prevent or slow the progression of atherosclerosis by inhibiting calcium overload and interfering with lipid metabolism and deposition. These encouraging results have prompted clinical trials to evaluate the effects of calcium antagonists (dihydropyridines and diphenylalkylamines) on atherosclerotic plaque formation. In patients with coronary heart disease, several studies have already shown that calcium antagonists can have a positive effect on plaque evolution, while in hypertensive patients no such study has been published to date. The Verapamil in Hypertension Atherosclerosis Study is an ongoing multicentre randomised double-blind parallel group trial comparing the antihypertensive efficacy of verapamil SR 240 mg/day with that of chlorthalidone 25 mg/day in 1464 patients with essential hypertension aged 40 to 65 years. In a randomised subgroup of patients (n = 550), who will be followed up for 3 years, B-mode ultrasonography is being employed to evaluate the effects of the 2 drugs on carotid wall thickness and carotid plaque development. Ultrasonographic evaluations are performed at baseline, after 3 months, and 1, 2 and 3 years after a standardised protocol to determine intimal-medial thickness in 4 segments of the extracranial carotid tree. The most interesting result to date is the high incidence of carotid alterations, with plaques present in 35% and arterial wall thickening in 31.8% of the 311 asymptomatic hypertensive patients processed so far. A preliminary evaluation of the antihypertensive efficacy of the trial medications after 6 months of double-blind treatment indicates a 63.5% response rate to monotherapy and a 7.8% drop-out rate because of drug inefficacy or intolerance.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pharmacology (medical)
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis