TTUHSC professor helps define new blood pressure guidelines

Eric MacLaughlin, Pharm.D.

Eric MacLaughlin, Pharm.D.

The new blood pressure guidelines for diagnosing hypertension released recently by the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA) represented several years of work and research by an interdisciplinary writing committee whose members represented 11 different organizations. One of those committee members, Eric MacLaughlin, Pharm.D., is a professor and chair for the Department of Pharmacy Practice at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Amarillo.

The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) approached MacLaughlin in October 2014 to be a possible APhA representative to the guideline writing committee. The ACC and AHA, who took the lead in developing these guidelines, eventually selected MacLaughlin as the committee’s lone pharmacy representative.

“As a member of the Guideline Writing Committee, my role was to lead the literature review and writing of the various sections to which I was assigned,” MacLaughlin explained. “All of the authors also served to review, edit and revise the guidelines and their accompanying documents, including the data supplement tables and results of the meta-analyses that were undertaken by the Evidence Review Committee specifically for these guidelines.”

MacLaughlin said the goal of the new guideline is to ultimately improve public health and decrease the morbidity and mortality associated with elevated blood pressure.

“Hypertension remains the leading cause of death in the United States and worldwide,” he added.

According to an online ACC new story published Nov. 13, the new guidelines eliminate the prehypertension category and will now classify patients as having either Elevated (120-129 and less than 80) or Stage I hypertension (130-139 or 80-89). The former guidelines classified 140/90 mm Hg as Stage 1 hypertension, a level classified as Stage 2 hypertension by the new guidelines.

In addition, the ACC news story said the new guidelines stress the importance of using proper technique to measure blood pressure; recommend the use of home blood pressure monitoring using validated devices; and highlight the value of appropriate training of health care providers to reveal “white-coat hypertension.”

Other guideline changes include a recommendation that clinicians only prescribe medication for Stage I hypertension patients who have already had a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke and those who are deemed to be at high risk of heart attack or stroke based upon their age, the presence of diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease or calculation of atherosclerotic risk using the same risk calculator used in evaluating high cholesterol.

“The guidelines will undergo a periodic review and will be updated as newer literature becomes available,” MacLaughlin said.

School of Pharmacy


The School of Pharmacy was established in 1996 and now has campuses in Amarillo, Lubbock, Dallas and Abilene. Since its inception, the school has played a significant role in addressing the state's pharmacist shortage. Today, more than 90 percent of its graduates remain in Texas.

The school requires its students to complete more clinical training hours than any other pharmacy program in the country, making its students some of the most sought after graduates.