Calcium channel blockers versus other classes of drugs for hypertension

Calcium channel blockers (CCBs) are used as a first-line antihypertensive drug for patients with hypertension, but whether this is the best way to reduce adverse cardiovascular events is unknown. We aimed to evaluate the effect of first-line CCBs on preventing adverse cardiovascular events as compared to other antihypertensive drugs. We found 18 trials in 141,807 participants to answer the question. All-cause mortality was not different between CCBs and any other antihypertensive drug classes. Diuretics were found to be better at reducing total cardiovascular events than CCBs and CCBs were found to be better at reducing total cardiovascular events than β-blockers. This information will be helpful for health professionals and patients to assist them in choosing the best drug for initial treatment of hypertension.

Authors' conclusions: 

Diuretics are preferred first-line over CCBs to optimize reduction of cardiovascular events. The review does not distinguish between CCBs, ACE inhibitors or ARBs, but does provide evidence supporting the use of CCBs over β-blockers. Many of the differences found in the current review are not robust and further trials might change the conclusions. More well-designed RCTs studying the mortality and morbidity of patients taking CCBs as compared with other antihypertensive drug classes are needed for patients with different stages of hypertension, different ages, and with different co-morbidities such as diabetes.

Read the full abstract...

Calcium channel blockers (CCBs) are a relatively new antihypertensive class. The effect of first-line CCBs on the prevention of cardiovascular events, as compared with other antihypertensive drug classes, is unknown.


To determine whether CCBs used as first-line therapy for hypertension are different from other first-line drug classes in reducing the incidence of major adverse cardiovascular events.

Search strategy: 

Electronic searches of the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, EMBASEand the WHO-ISH Collaboration Register (up to May 2009) were performed. We also checked the references of published studies to identify additional trials.

Selection criteria: 

Randomized controlled trial (RCT) comparing first-line CCBs with other antihypertensive classes, with at least 100 randomized hypertensive participants and with a follow-up of at least two years.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two authors independently selected the included trials, evaluated the risk of bias and entered the data for analysis.

Main results: 

Eighteen RCTs (14 dihydropyridines, 4 non-dihydropyridines) with a total of 141,807 participants were included. All-cause mortality was not different between first-line CCBs and any other first-line antihypertensive classes. CCBs reduced the following outcomes as compared to β-blockers: total cardiovascular events (RR 0.84, 95% CI [0.77, 0.92]), stroke (RR 0.77, 95% CI [0.67, 0.88]) and cardiovascular mortality (RR 0.90, 95% CI [0.81, 0.99]). CCBs increased total cardiovascular events (RR 1.05 , 95% CI [1.00, 1.09], p = 0.03) and congestive heart failure events (RR 1.37, 95% CI [1.25, 1.51]) as compared to diuretics. CCBs reduced stroke (RR 0.89, 95% CI [0.80, 0.98]) as compared to ACE inhibitors and reduced stroke (RR 0.85, 95% CI [0.73, 0.99]) and MI (RR 0.83, 95% CI [0.72, 0.96]) as compared to ARBs. CCBs also increased congestive heart failure events as compared to ACE inhibitors (RR 1.16, 95% CI [1.06, 1.27]) and ARBs (RR 1.20, 95% CI [1.06, 1.36]). The other evaluated outcomes were not significantly different.