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Press Room

WHO Endorsement of Simpler Drug Treatment for Blood Pressure Will Save Lives

Including fixed dose combinations on Essential Medicine List will improve availability, affordability for 1 billion

(New York, NY) Resolve to Save Lives (RTSL), an initiative of Vital Strategies, welcomes the addition of four fixed dose combinations (FDCs) of antihypertensive medications to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Essential Medicines List (EML) in response to an application filed by RTSL and partners.  Adding four FDCs (lisinopril/amlodipine, lisinopril /hydrochlorothiazide, telmisartan/amlodipine, and telmisartan/hydrochlorothiazide) to the Essential Medicines List is a critical step to improve the availability and affordability of these drugs, making it easier for the more than 1 billion people with high blood pressure worldwide to regularly take the medicines they need to prevent early disability and death.

FDCs, which combine two or more blood pressure medications that are commonly taken together into a single pill, have been proven to improve patients’ adherence to medication regimens and blood pressure control rates. FDCs have important advantages for patients and health systems, including simpler dose schedules, decreased pill burden, reduced stockouts, and easier task sharing, training, and supervision.

“High blood pressure kills more people than all infectious diseases combined, but there are safe, effective, generic, low-cost medications that can prevent many of these deaths,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives. “FDCs have played an important role in improving blood pressure control rates in many countries, and their inclusion in the WHO EML will encourage all health systems to prioritize these life-saving drugs.” 

Many countries use the WHO EML as a model, and the listing of FDC antihypertensive medications will promote broader global uptake. Resolve to Save Lives coordinated the application for antihypertensive FDC’s inclusion in the 21st WHO EML with support from Vital Strategies, the Arnhold Institute for Global Health, the George Institute for Global Health, and the Young Professionals Chronic Disease Network.

Only one of every seven people who has high blood pressure worldwide has it under control, even though high blood pressure can be safely treated and managed with medication. A major reason for low global control is that most patients require two or more drugs to control blood pressure, yet many only receive one. Improving worldwide control of high blood pressure to 70% percent can prevent almost 40 million deaths over 25 years.  

“Ensuring a supply of safe, effective medications for high blood pressure and promoting patient-centered care through convenient medication regimens are both key to improving blood pressure control rates around the world,” said Dr. Frieden. “Having FDCs for hypertension on the WHO EML is a breakthrough for both of these proven strategies, and for getting these drugs to the people who need them.”   

Many leading global organizations support increasing access to FDCs of antihypertensive medications, including the American Heart Association, European Society of Hypertension, International Society of Hypertension, Lancet Commission on Hypertension Group, Latin American Society on Hypertension, Resolve to Save Lives, World Heart Federation, World Hypertension League, and World Stroke Organization.

Resolve to Save Lives does not accept funding or any type of gift from pharmaceutical companies or device manufacturers.

Additional Information

Although specific medications are listed in the EML, countries can select similar medications of the same class. For example, many experts recommend that chlorthalidone be used in place of hydrochlorothiazide because of evidence that it is more effective in preventing cardiovascular events. Current availability of chlorthalidone is limited and prices are higher than hydrochlorothiazide, but that may change if chlorthalidone becomes more widely used.

About Resolve to Save Lives

Resolve to Save Lives is a five-year, $225 million campaign funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is led by Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and coordinated by Vital Strategies, which works in 60 countries to address the world’s most challenging health issues.

Resolve to Save Lives aims to save 100 million lives over the next 30 years by:

  • Supporting policies to eliminate artificial trans fat and reduce global sodium consumption by 30%.
  • Helping low- and middle-income countries improve treatment of high blood pressure by supporting efforts that have been proven to be effective and can be easily scaled up in large populations.

To find out more visit: https://www.resolvetosavelives.org or Twitter @ResolveTSL

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that seeks to accelerate progress on the world’s most pressing health problems. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Resolve to Save Lives expert, please contact Erin Sykes at +1 646-612-0001 or esykes@resolvetosavelives.org or Christina Honeysett, Vital Strategies at +1 914.424.3356 or choneysett@vitalstrategies.org.