Thousands of healthy Danes being over-medicated

Blood pressure medication could be doing more damage than life-saving

Over 150,000 healthy Danes are taking blood-pressure medication that could be doing more damage than good, according to experts.

Torben Jørgensen, a professor in prevention at the Research Centre for Prevention and Health (RCPH) in the Capital Region, is one expert who warns that the over-medication has gone too far.

“Many healthy Danes take blood-pressure medicine, but see slight-to-no benefit,” Jørgensen told DR Nyheder.

“We’re on a slippery slope right now, where the limit has been lowered too far in terms of who benefits from taking blood-pressure medication.”

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An epic epidemic 
Over the last decades, the number of Danes on blood-pressure medicine has exploded. It is estimated that over 1 million Danes (almost one-fifth of the entire population) take the medicine – which is supposed to prevent cardiovascular diseases.

There is widespread agreement that the medicine can benefit the group of Danes who already have cardiovascular disease or healthy Danes at a high risk of getting blood clots or strokes because of their high blood pressure.

But treatment has reached a point where many healthy Danes who have just slightly raised blood pressure are being given the medicine.

“There are a lot of healthy Danes who take medicine when they shouldn’t,” said Jens Søndergaard, a doctor and head of the Research Unit of General Practice at the University of Southern Denmark.

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“Because the beneficial effects do not always trump the side-effects of the medicine.”

The medication risks giving upwards of 10 percent of patients side-effects, such as nausea, dehydration, constipation or diarrhoea. Others are hit by fatigue and impotence, and elderly people can get dizzy and risk falling and breaking their hips.

Cardiovascular disease is the second-most common cause of death in Denmark, although most first succumb to it after turning 85.