Earlier this week, the definition of high blood pressure was changed to 130/80.

This is a huge change in the definition of hypertension in the American Heart Association (AHA) and American Academy of Cardiology Task Force guidelines. Redefining high blood pressure for the fist time in 14 years will now lead to nearly half a million Americans being newly classified as hypertensive. Whilst this may sound like a massive increase in patient population and a great opportunity for the pharma industry, GlobalDadta believes that the value of this change lies elsewhere.

Previously, the blood pressure reading of 140/90 was defined as “high”. Changing this definition to 130/80 increases the prevalence of this condition from one in three to almost one in two adult Americans.

Although this change will massively increase the patient pool, it will not impact the antihypertensive medicines market radically for two reasons. The first is that this is a crowded and heavily genericised space, without many forces available to propagate the use of medication. The second reason is that according to the authors of the guidelines, only a small fraction of the newly defined hypertensive patients will be prescribed medication. Patients will be mainly encouraged to make lifestyle changes, such as a healthy eating, exercising, sleeping properly, and avoiding stress.

The change may therefore not have much of an immediate impact on the market, but this redefinition will mark the beginning of a new era for the pharmaceutical sector—a move toward prevention as a paradigm for treatment.

Healthcare systems have been experiencing an unsustainable escalation in the burden of cost, and thus will welcome this change in the guidelines despite the initial increase in the number of patients being prescribed drugs. The push toward a preventative approach will lead to a lower number of cardiovascular events and strokes, which will eventually reduce the total cost for the healthcare system.

The new recommendations also encourage a higher frequency of home blood pressure monitoring, as this method is far more accurate and often shows a much lower blood pressure than the one measured in the doctor’s office (widely known as the “white coat” effect). According to experts, this difference in measurement can be stunning. If home monitoring becomes a widely used practice, GlobalData believes that this may lead to a substantially different picture of the overall prevalence of hypertension.