Our study is the first in China to explore both BP and LDL-C attainment rates in dyslipidemia patients with concomitant hypertension. It is commonly accepted that dyslipidemia is associated with hypertension [13,14,15,16,17], findings in good agreement with the results obtained in the present investigation. The data revealed that about two thirds of dyslipidemia patients in the DYSIS-China database had hypertension and only one third of them had their BP controlled.
Ten percent of all patients with hypertension in our study did not receive any hypertension medication. Of those who received treatment, 50.5% were on monotherapy and 39.4% on combination therapy. The relatively high percentage of untreated and unsuccessful monotherapy cases indicates a clinical inertia and poor disease management, particularly regarding the switch to combination therapy for the treatment of hypertension . In our study, endocrine departments achieved the lowest LDL-C (48.9%), BP (19.9%) and combined LDL-C and BP goal attainment rates (12.4%), which might be associated with the lowest hypertension treatment (86.6%) and lipid lowering treatment rates with statin (85.4%) in these departments.
Neurologists and endocrinologists mainly focus on the patient’s specialized condition and treatment (nervous system function, blood glucose control, etc.). The use of statins and the lack of attention to LDL-C or adopting small doses for fear of side effects may be the reasons for the low LDL-C achievement rate.
Similarly, a recent study showed that cardiologists were more likely to prescribe combination antihypertensive therapy than endocrinologists . Thus fixed-dose combinations should be encouraged especially for diabetic, CHD and CKD patients, or those patients who have a heavy pill burden to improve treatment compliance and BP target rates. In one randomized, double-blind, multicenter comparison study it was reported that switching to a fixed-dose combination therapy of amlodipine/losartan 5 mg/100 mg was associated with significantly greater reductions in BP and superior achievement of BP goals compared with a maintenance dose of losartan 100 mg . Although we have published the Chinese Hypertension Prevention and Treatment Guideline in 2010 and stressed the importance of antihypertensive treatment, many patients, even physicians, remain reluctant to take or cannot prescribe optimal combination therapy. Some patients even practice “Qigong”, “Tai Chi” or take traditional Chinese medicine instead of conventional antihypertensive drugs.
According to the hypertension guidelines, the majority of patients need combination therapy to reach their BP goal. Early and aggressive combination treatment, particularly for patients with comorbidities, is an effective method to help patients achieve their goals, as the combination of different classes of antihypertensive drugs with various mechanisms of action produce synergistic BP lowering effects [21,22,23]. In fact, the Chinese Hypertension Intervention Efficacy (CHIEF) trial included 13,542 hypertensive patients from 180 centers in China. The preliminary report of CHIEF revealed that combination treatments of a CCB with a diuretic, or a CCB plus an ARB for hypertensive patients, produced BP attainment rates of 72.1 and 72.6%, respectively . In a community-based chronic disease management program held in Hebei province, the BP control rate rose from 8.9 to 77.2% in 41,000 hypertensive patients who followed standard antihypertensive procedure and who were strictly monitored for one year by 7000 general physicians .
In present study, a strange finding was that the monotherapy was associated with a higher BP control rate (36.2%) than combination therapies (32.4%) (P = 0.001), and the more the number of antihypertensive drugs, the lower the BP control rate. Possible explanations for this strange phenomenon could be poor treatment compliances with the increment of drug-tablets [26, 27], or an unconscionable combination of different classes of antihypertensive drugs which should cause the attention of physicians and patients in the clinical practice.
In patients unresponsive to BP lowering therapy, the poor compliance may also be due to costs, availability of professional guidance, and lack of family support [28, 29]. However, poor compliance has been reported to be a global problem for hypertension treatments and the authors proposed electronic monitoring, drug measurements as well as single-pill fixed-dose combinations and medication repacking as methods of improving adherence . Now with the ongoing health care reform in China, a nationwide, highly effective chronic disease prevention and control system is being established. This is probably the only way to implement our guideline recommendations, to educate our physicians and patients effectively and to promote the control of hypertension and dyslipidemia substantially. Enhanced compliance may also be the reason for relatively better goal achievement rates in patients’ ≥ 65 years old in our study, a finding that has also been highlighted in previous studies [31, 32].
The extremely low rate of diuretics prescription (1.4%) may in part account for the low BP attainment rate in our study population, especially in patients receiving combination therapy. In China, it has been reported that 58.7% of hypertension patients were salt-sensitive, a percentage that may even be higher in diabetic and/or elderly patients. In these patients, it is difficult to control BP without a diuretic in their antihypertensive drug regimen, particularly in the north of China where salt intake is as high as 12–18 g/day . Therefore, in order to improve the BP control rates in China for patients refractory to monotherapy, combination treatment containing a diuretic should be considered. And in patients whose BP remained uncontrolled after non-diuretic or a two-drug combination, further adjustment of the treatment regimen should include a diuretic.
Our multivariate logistic regression analysis showed that obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and chronic kidney disease were independent risk factors associated with BP target attainment failure. The combined goal attainment rate for both BP and LDL-C was very low (22.9%) in our hypertensive dyslipidemia patients. For those with diabetes, CHD and/or CKD, the lower BP target (< 130/80 mmHg) in the 2010 Chinese Hypertension Guideline may partially account for the disappointing BP attainment rates. However, the BP target rate in patients with obesity or cerebrovascular disease were also very low, though these patients shared the same BP target value (SBP/DBP < 140/90 mmHg) as uncomplicated hypertensives. Moreover, the analysis of dyslipidemia management in DYSIS-China also revealed that diabetes was a strong predictor of failure in attaining LDL-C and non-HDL-C goals . Zhao’s result are in accordance with the findings of our multivariate logistic regression analysis, which showed that diabetes was an independent risk factor for not achieving BP and combined BP and LDL-C targets. Therefore, besides the stricter BP target value for these comorbidities, there must be other reasons (vide supra) that may account for the low BP target attainment rates. Further measures should be taken to spread the recommendations of our guidelines in order to improve BP and LDL-C control rate in patients with comorbidities. The doctors in endocrine or neurology departments should focus more on the control of BP and LDL-C in their patients, though the circumstances in other departments were also not optimal in our study.
Though in “Other Departments” the percentages of treated patients (55.9% for hypertension and 62.4% for lipid lowering drugs) was not the highest (Additional file 1: Table S1), the goal attainment rates for BP (43.4%) (Additional file 2: Table S2), LDL-C (68%) (Table 2) and both BP and LDL-C (35.5%) (Additional file 3: Table S3) were the highest among all the departments examined. A possible explanation might be that in “Other Departments” the prevalence of comorbidities and risk factors were lower and fewer patients needed to have their BP and LDL-C under 130/80 mmHg and 2.0 mmol/L, respectively.
The present study has several limitations. Since it was an observational cross-sectional investigation, long-term outcomes could not be assessed. In addition, the information of the patients’ compliance was not collected purposefully in DYSIS-China. Hence we could not analyze the patients’ adherence to medication precisely in the present study. Furthermore, all the patients enrolled in DYSIS-China had already received at least 3 months antidyslipidemia treatment (inclusion criteria for DYSIS-China) and the treatment rate of statins in this patient population was as high as 89.7%. If DYSIS-China would have enrolled dyslipidemia subjects consecutively and not eliminated patients without previous antidyslipidemia treatment, the statins’ treatment rate would have certainly been much lower than 89.7%, and the combined BP and LDL-C targets attainment rates even worse than those in the present study.