A secondary analysis of a major study of polypill therapy for hypertension found that patients who don’t reach blood pressure targets are less likely to have their medications adjusted if they’re on fixed-dose combination therapy.

Dr. Nelson Wang, a research fellow at the George Institute for Global Health, Newtown, Australia

Dr. Nelson Wang

However, hypertension patients on low-dose, triple-pill combination therapy are more likely to achieve blood pressure control than are those on usual care.

The secondary analysis of Triple Pill vs. Usual Care Management for Patients with Mild-to-Moderate Hypertension (TRIUMPH) was published online in JAMA Cardiology (2020 Jul 22. doi: 10.1001/jamacardio.2020.2739). The trial randomized 700 patients with hypertension in Sri Lanka to triple-pill fixed-dose combination (FDC) therapy or usual care during February 2016–May 2017, with follow-up ending in October 2017.

A greater proportion of FDC patients reached target BP by the end of the study compared with usual care, 70% vs. 55%. However, the study found that therapeutic inertia – the failure to intensify therapy in nonresponsive patients – was more common in the FDC group at 6- and 12-week follow-up: 87% vs. 64% and 90% vs. 65%, respectively; both differences were significant different at P < .001).

The once-daily FDC pill contained telmisartan 20 mg, amlodipine 2.5 mg; and chlorthalidone 12.5 mg.

“Using a triple low-dose combination blood-pressure pill reduced the need to uptitrate BP therapy as more patients are at target, but doctors were less likely to uptitrate with triple-pill therapy when it was needed,” lead author Nelson Wang, MD, a research fellow at the George Institute for Global Health in suburban Sydney, said in an interview.

“Overall, there were fewer treatment inertia episodes in the triple-pill group than in the usual care group, but this was driven by the fact that fewer triple-pill patients needed uptitration when coming to their follow-up visits,” Dr. Wang added.

The analysis found that clinicians who prescribed triple-pill FDC used 23 unique drug treatment regimens per 100 treated patients compared with 54 different regiments with usual care (P < .001). “There was a large simplification in care,” Dr. Wang said of the FDC approach.

Dr. Wang and colleagues called for greater efforts to address therapeutic inertia, particularly with FDC therapies, and suggested potential strategies consisting of patient education, incentives for appropriate treatment adjustments, and feedback mechanisms and reminders for physicians.

“There may also be a need for more dosage options with the FDC triple pill to allow physicians to intensify therapy without fear of overtreatment and adverse drug effects,” they wrote.

In an accompanying editorial (JAMA Cardiol. 2020 Jul 22. doi: 10.1001/jamacardio.2020.2693), Ann Marie Navar, MD, PhD, associate professor of cardiology at Duke Clinical Research Institute, Durham, N.C., noted that initiating treatment with FDC therapy doesn’t preclude a more personalized approach for patients who don’t achieve their BP target. “The real choice now is the choice of initial treatment,” she wrote, adding that future treatment guidelines should consider extending an FDC-first approach to patients with less severe levels of hypertension.

Dr. Ann Marie Navar, associate professor of cardiology at Duke Clinical Research Institute, Durham, N.C.

Dr. Ann Marie Navar

“The study showed there’s room for a both a population-based fixed-drug combination approach and a personalized approach to how we think about hypertension management with fixed-dose therapy,” she said in an interview. “It’s not a one-and-done situation.”

Dr. Wang has no financial relationships to disclose. Study coauthors received funding from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council and the U.K. National Institute for Health Research. Dr. Navar has no relevant financial relationships to report.

SOURCE: Wang N et al. JAMA Cardiol. 2020. doi: 10.1001/jamacardio.2020.2739.