World Health Day on 7 April 2013: focus on high blood pressure

News 05/04/2013

The European Medicines Agency supports World Health Day, taking place on Sunday 7 April 2013.

World Health Day is a global campaign held every year on 7 April to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO). Each year's theme highlights a priority area of concern for the WHO.

In 2013, the theme for the day is high blood pressure. If left uncontrolled, high blood pressure can damage the arteries and vital organs throughout the body, leading to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and serious vision disorders. One in three adults worldwide has high blood pressure. The proportion increases with age, from 1 in 10 people in their 20s and 30s to 5 in 10 people in their 50s.

However, high blood pressure is both preventable and treatable. The risk of developing high blood pressure can be minimised by cutting down on salt, eating a balanced diet, avoiding harmful use of alcohol, getting regular exercise, avoiding tobacco use and losing weight. For many people, lifestyle changes are sufficient to control blood pressure. For others, medication is required.

The European Commission has authorised more than 35 monotherapies and combination therapies for the treatment of high blood pressure on the recommendation of the Agency's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP). These include medicines acting as vasodilators, which cause the vessels to dilate through various mechanisms of action. Due to the complexity of blood pressure control mechanisms, combination therapies are often needed to reach satisfactory levels of blood pressure. These combination therapies usually contain an inhibitor of the renin-angiotensin system and a calcium-channel blocker, which both act as vasodilators, or a diuretic, which reduces the volume of fluid in the blood.

The Agency publishes guidelines for pharmaceutical companies, describing how they should design and carry out studies of medicines for the treatment of high blood pressure.

Bringing together experts in cardiovascular diseases

The CHMP has two groups comprised of European experts in the area of cardiovascular diseases:

  • the Scientific Advisory Group on Cardiovascular Issues. Scientific advisory groups (SAGs) are composed of independent experts, mainly from academia, selected by the CHMP according to their specific competencies. This SAG is convened at the request of the CHMP to provide independent recommendations on scientific or technical matters relating to cardiovascular products under evaluation by the CHMP, or on any other scientific issue relevant to the work of the CHMP that relates to this area;
  • the Cardiovascular Working Party, composed of European experts selected from or associated with the national agencies with specific expertise in cardiovascular diseases. The Working Party's work includes a number of tasks that follow specific CHMP requests and are conducted under the CHMP's supervision. The Cardiovascular Working Party prepares, reviews and updates guidelines and concept papers, ensuring the inclusion of state-of-the art recommendations on how to design and conduct clinical studies for medicines intended for cardiovascular diseases.

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