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Beta blocker drugs for heart patients may be an outdated therapy

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Common drugs called beta blockers may not be warranted for heart patients.

In a new study, researchers have found that beta blockers – common drugs prescribed for heart patients that also have side effects – don’t provide the benefits they’re usually prescribed for. It’s possible that the ‘standard’ medication therapy may be outdated, according to the newest finding.

In an analysis, researcher found no lower risk of heart related events for patients with established coronary artery disease (CAD), previous heart attack or MI or death from taking the common drugs that are considered a standard prescription for anyone who has heart blockage at risk for CAD and especially for patients with a history of heart attack.

Researchers writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association say evidence that the drugs should be routinely prescribed may be dated.

The authors write, “The evidence is derived from relatively old post-MI studies, most of which antedate modern reperfusion or medical therapy, and from heart failure trials, but has been widely extrapolated to patients with CAD and even to patients at high risk for but without established CAD.”

The observational study was carried out by Sripal Bangalore, M.D., M.H.A., of the NYU School of Medicine, New York, and colleagues.

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The team looked at long-term outcomes, comparing patients taking the drugs who had CAD, previous heart attack or just risk factors for heart blockage to patients who were not prescribed the medications.

They found little difference in outcomes for patients with heart attack who took beta-blockers and those who didn’t. The medications also didn’t do much to cut risk of MI, stroke or deaths.

Beta blockers work by slowing down the heart rate and blocking the hormone adrenalin that can stress the heart. Some beta blockers are prescribed for anxiety and even migraine headaches. If you’re taking the medications, speak with your doctor. Don’t stop your medication.

The study questions the use of the common heart drugs, but more research is needed to find out if there are ‘subgroups’ of patients that could benefit from the medications.. It’s also important to know the study was observational and doesn't absolutely prove heart patients don’t benefit from beta-blockers.

JAMA. 2012;308[13]:1340-1349
October 3, 2012

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