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2003 World Health Organization (WHO)/International Society of Hypertension (ISH) statement on management of hypertension

World Health Organization, International Society of Hypertension Writing Group

Guidelines and recommendations

Objective: Hypertension is estimated to cause 4.5% of current global disease burden and is as prevalent in many developing countries, as in the developed world. Blood pressure-induced cardiovascular risk rises continuously across the whole blood pressure range. Countries vary widely in capacity for management of hypertension, but worldwide the majority of diagnosed hypertensives are inadequately controlled. This statement addresses the ascertainment of overall cardiovascular risk to establish thresholds for initiation and goals of treatment, appropriate treatment strategies for non-drug and drug therapies, and cost-effectiveness of treatment.

Conclusions: Since publication of the WHO/ISH Guidelines for the Management of Hypertension in 1999, more evidence has become available to support a systolic blood pressure threshold of 140 mmHg for even ‘low-risk’ patients. In high-risk patients there is evidence for lower thresholds. Lifestyle modification is recommended for all individuals. There is evidence that specific agents have benefits for patients with particular compelling indications, and that monotherapy is inadequate for the majority of patients. For patients without a compelling indication for a particular drug class, on the basis of comparative trial data, availability, and cost, a low dose of diuretic should be considered for initiation of therapy. In most places a thiazide diuretic is the cheapest option and thus most cost effective, but for compelling indications where other classes provide additional benefits, even if more expensive, they may be more cost effective. In high-risk patients who attain large benefits from treatment, expensive drugs may be cost effective, but in low-risk patients treatment may not be cost-effective unless the drugs are cheap.

See Appendix 1 for a list of contributors.

Potential conflicts of interest for all contributors are listed in Appendix 2.

Correspondence and requests for reprints to Professor Judith A. Whitworth, Director, John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia. Tel: + 61 2 6125 2597; fax: + 61 2 6125 2337; e-mail:

Received 30 June 2003 Accepted 29 July 2003

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.