INTRODUCTION AND OBJECTIVES: Finding out which drugs are chosen to treat incident cases of hypertension may help in interpreting prevalent use of antihypertensive agents. We aimed to determine the proportion of patients who begin treatment with each antihypertensive drug class, which physicians initiate treatment and whether family physicians alter prescriptions initiated by others, and to compare the prescribing patterns of family physicians and other specialists.
METHODS: In this cohort-nested cross-sectional study between 2014 and 2015 within the Portuguese Sentinel Practice Network, family physicians notified incident cases of hypertension, reporting treatment, who issued the initial prescription and whether treatments initiated by other physicians were changed.
RESULTS: A total of 681 incident cases were notified. The initial prescription was issued by the patient's family physician in 86.9% of cases (95% CI: 84.2-89.3%). The most frequently used agents were angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (51.3% of patients, 95% CI: 47.5-55.0%), thiazide and thiazide-like diuretics (32.2%, 95% CI: 28.8-35.8%), and angiotensin receptor blockers (21.4%, 95% CI: 18.5-24.7%). Compared to other specialists, family physicians used less beta-blockers (20.4 vs. 5.9%, p<0.001) and loop diuretics (8.2 vs. 0.8%, p=0.003). Prescriptions initiated by other specialists were changed by family physicians in 11.6% of cases (95% CI: 6.0-19.6%).
CONCLUSION: Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors were the most frequently prescribed antihypertensive class. Most diagnoses were made by the patient's own family physician. Prescriptions initiated by other specialists were usually continued by family physicians. Prescribing patterns were similar between family physicians and other specialists, except for lower use of beta-blockers and loop diuretics.
- Antihypertensive agents
- Drug utilization
- Primary care
- Sentinel surveillance