The Downside of Blood Pressure Drugs

The Downside of Blood Pressure Drugs

Julian Whitaker, MD

One in three American adults has hypertension, and many of them take drugs to control their blood pressure. The rationale for lowering blood pressure is that it reduces risk of death from heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. But sometimes the cure can be worse than the disease.

Use Calcium Channel Blockers With Caution

One popular class of drugs for lowering blood pressure is calcium channel blockers (Cardizem, Norvasc, Calan, Procardia, and others). Yet, according to a study published in JAMA, when used alone or in combination with diuretics as a treatment for hypertension, they actually increase risk of death.

Previous studies have shown that these drugs, which lower blood pressure by relaxing the arteries, raise risk of heart attack and congestive heart failure. This recent study, which looked at more than 30,000 hypertensive women over age 50, found that those taking calcium channel blockers had a 55 percent increase in death compared to women taking diuretics. And those who took this drug along with a diuretic were twice as likely to die of cardiovascular disease as women taking other drug combinations.

That these drugs are used at all is a travesty. ALLHAT, the largest clinical trial of hypertensive drugs to date, concluded that good old inexpensive diuretics are the best, most cost-effective, first-line treatment for high blood pressure. But this hasn’t stopped drug companies and physicians from pushing newer, more expensive, and far more dangerous calcium channel blockers, beta blockers, and other drugs on millions of trusting patients.

Bad News on Beta Blockers

Beta blockers, which have been prescribed for more than 30 years to treat high blood pressure, are problematic as well. In a study published in the Lancet, arguably the world’s leading medical journal, Swedish researchers combined data from 13 clinical trials involving nearly 106,000 people and found that beta blockers are not only ineffective, but may be harmful to the people who take them.

This meta-analysis, which was spearheaded by Professor Lars Hjalmar Lindholm and colleagues at the Umea University Hospital in Sweden, looked at beta blockers and other drugs used to treat high blood pressure and compared their effects on stroke, heart attack, and all-cause mortality.

While there was no difference among the drugs in relation to heart problems, there was a three percent greater risk of all-cause mortality with beta blockers. Most startling was that risk of stroke was 16 percent higher in patients taking beta blockers. These drugs reduce risk of stroke by just 19 percent, half of what was expected based on previous studies.

One specific beta blocker, atenolol (Tenormin), which came under fire when a Lancet study suggested it was less effective than other drugs in its class, posed a whopping 26 percent increased risk of stroke as compared to other drugs.

Here’s the study’s conclusion: “Switching hypertension treatment from beta blockers to other low-cost antihypertensive drugs in patients without heart disease should have a major health effect without increasing the cost… In comparison with other hypertensive drugs, the effect of beta blockers is clearly suboptimal with a higher risk of stroke.”

Drug-Free Alternatives: Safe and Effective

Drug companies are constantly falling all over themselves trying to reinvent the wheel and create the latest and greatest antihypertensive drug. These “innovations” have no significant superiority over earlier versions but, hey, they’re new and they sell. This produces astronomical profits for Big Pharma, but at the same time inflicts irreversible, immeasurable harm on the people who take these drugs.

Since I opened the doors of the Whitaker Wellness Institute in 1979, we have been helping patients routinely, predictably, and consistently reduce their blood pressure to acceptable levels. We don’t do this with drugs, but with an all-natural approach that includes supplementing with targeted minerals, vitamins, and herbs; implementing a healthy diet and exercise regimen; and undergoing innovative therapies that rejuvenate the entire cardiovascular system. This treatment program effectively helps patients in minimize or discontinue hypertensive medications, normalize blood pressure, and get back on the road to optimal health.


  • For a comprehensive look at treating high blood pressure naturally, pick up a copy of my book, Reversing Hypertension. It is available in bookstores, at our online store, or by calling (800) 810-6655.
  • To learn more about our comprehensive treatment program at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, contact a Patient Services Representative at (866) 944-8253 or click here.


  • U.S. Senate Committee on Finance hearing: FDA, Merck and Vioxx: Putting Patient Safety First? 2004 Nov 18. http://finance.senate.gov/hearings/testimony/2004test/111804dgtest.pdf
  • Wassertheil-Smoller, S et al. Association between cardiovascular outcomes and antihypertensive drug treatment in older women. JAMA. 2004 Dec 15;292(23):2849-59.
  • National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2004. www.cdc.gov/nchs/hus.htm
  • Lindholm LH, et al. Should beta blockers remain first choice in the treatment of primary hypertension? A meta-analysis. Lancet. 2005;366:1545-1553.
  • Roberts CK, et al. Effect of diet and exercise intervention on blood pressure, insulin, oxidative stress, and nitric oxide availability. Circulation. 2002 Nov 12;106(20):2530-2532.

Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Copyright 2005. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healingclick here.

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