High Blood Pressure on the Rise in China

More than one in three Chinese adults between ages 35 and 75—around 350 million people—suffer from high blood pressure, or hypertension, according to a study funded by the country’s National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC). High blood pressure increases the risk of stroke, which accounts for 20% of deaths in China. The rise is being driven by China’s graying population, dietary changes, and the growing incidence of obesity.  The problem is being exacerbated by an insufficient and uneven supply of effective and low-cost medications. Only 5% of hypertension patients treat their condition, and less than a quarter of those take medication and treatment. Only 32.7% of all 3,300 surveyed primary health care sites, including hospitals and clinics, stocked “high-value” medications, and only 11.2% of prescription records were for medications classed as such. Doctors are more likely to prescribe high-cost medications. While drugs are the most common treatment for hypertension, interventional treatments include PCI, bypass, open-heart cardiac surgery, and heart transplantations. Vascular stents are increasingly used in China, with domestically made stents gaining more market share as their prices have dropped by more than half since 2000. Doctors are seeking implantable blood pressure devices like Rheos machines to reduce blood pressure for patients who do not respond well to medications.