BACKGROUND: We aimed to investigate whether the benefits of blood pressure-lowering drugs are proportional to baseline cardiovascular risk, to establish whether absolute risk could be used to inform treatment decisions for blood pressure-lowering therapy, as is recommended for lipid-lowering therapy. METHODS: This meta-analysis included individual participant data from trials that randomly assigned patients to either blood pressure-lowering drugs or placebo, or to more intensive or less intensive blood pressure-lowering regimens. The primary outcome was total major cardiovascular events, consisting of stroke, heart attack, heart failure, or cardiovascular death. Participants were separated into four categories of baseline 5-year major cardiovascular risk using a risk prediction equation developed from the placebo groups of the included trials (<11%, 11-15%, 15-21%, >21%). FINDINGS: 11 trials and 26 randomised groups met the inclusion criteria, and included 67,475 individuals, of whom 51,917 had available data for the calculation of the risk equations. 4167 (8%) had a cardiovascular event during a median of 4·0 years (IQR 3·4-4·4) of follow-up. The mean estimated baseline levels of 5-year cardiovascular risk for each of the four risk groups were 6·0% (SD 2·0), 12·1% (1·5), 17·7% (1·7), and 26·8% (5·4). In each consecutive higher risk group, blood pressure-lowering treatment reduced the risk of cardiovascular events relatively by 18% (95% CI 7-27), 15% (4-25), 13% (2-22), and 15% (5-24), respectively (p=0·30 for trend). However, in absolute terms, treating 1000 patients in each group with blood pressure-lowering treatment for 5 years would prevent 14 (95% CI 8-21), 20 (8-31), 24 (8-40), and 38 (16-61) cardiovascular events, respectively (p=0·04 for trend). INTERPRETATION: Lowering blood pressure provides similar relative protection at all levels of baseline cardiovascular risk, but progressively greater absolute risk reductions as baseline risk increases. These results support the use of predicted baseline cardiovascular disease risk equations to inform blood pressure-lowering treatment decisions. FUNDING: None.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





591 - 598


Antihypertensive Agents, Blood Pressure, Cardiovascular Diseases, Decision Making, Humans, Hypertension, Risk Assessment, Risk Factors