Beta Blockers could Help COPD Patients Survive and Reduce Flare-Ups

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Beta blockers, commonly used to treat blood pressure and prevent heart attack and heart rhythm problems, might also help patients with COPD live longer. Researchers studied the impact of beta-blockers for treatment of lung disease that include emphysema and chronic bronchitis, finding long-term benefits for patients suffering from lung disease.

Beta blockers used for patients with heart disease might also help prevent flare-ups of COPD. Contrary to common practice of avoiding beta blockers in patient with lung disease, researchers say a study of 2,230 patients shows beta blockers could improve survival and reduce the incidence of COPD exacerbation.


Frans H. Rutten, M.D., Ph.D., of University Medical Center Utrecht, the Netherlands analyzed records of patients from 23 medical practices finding that contrary to popular belief by clinicians, beta blockers were linked to longer survival time for patients with COPD compared to those not taking the drugs. Among the patients analyzed, 560 had COPD at the beginning of the study and 1670 developed lung disease during the analysis.

In a 7.2 year follow-up the researchers found that fewer patients had COPD flare-ups that were using beta-blockers, including a sub-group who also had heart disease.

"To our knowledge, this is the first observational study that shows that long-term treatment with beta-blockers may improve survival and reduce the risk of an exacerbation of COPD in the broad spectrum of patients with a diagnosis of COPD, including those who have COPD with but, importantly, also without overt cardiovascular comorbidities," write the authors.

COPD patients often die from cardiovascular disease, but beta-blockers can decrease mortality. Physicians are inclined to avoid the drugs, fearing they will cause adverse events that can cause repiratory faiure. The findings show that beta-blockers may actually help patients with COPD by extending survival and preventing COPD flare-ups. The authors say more studies are needed to prove whether beta blockers can truly be used as “cardiopulmonary drugs”.

Arch Intern Med. 2010;170[10]:849-850