Have beta-blockers passed their expiration date since new research suggests other, more modern drugs are more effective at preventing heart attacks and strokes?
- High blood pressure increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other problems
- Traditionally, general practitioners and cardiologists have prescribed beta-blockers to their patients
- Now experts say patents should get angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors
- Some patients are reluctant to switch from beta-blockers to the newer drugs
Beta-blockers may be less effective than other blood pressure-lowering drugs at preventing disease and death, new research suggests.
High blood pressure increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other serious problems, and there are a number of different medications that can help control the condition.
The latest NHS guidelines state that most patients should be offered angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or, if these cause side effects, angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) instead of beta-blockers. Both work by relaxing blood vessels.
Other options include calcium channel blockers and diuretics, often referred to as “water pills.”
Beta-blockers were one of the most commonly prescribed blood pressure medications for the past few decades, but they fell out of favor when newer pills that seemed better at lowering blood pressure hit the market.
GPs have traditionally prescribed beta-blockers to patients with high blood pressure, but experts say there are now more effective treatments that lower blood pressure
GPs say some patients are reluctant to move on to the newer forms of treatment
Despite this, general practitioners and cardiologists report that patients are often reluctant to switch from beta-blockers.
The new study is one of the first to look at long-term health outcomes in patients taking all types of blood pressure medications.
German scientists analyzed the case notes of more than 380,000 patients held by UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink.
They discovered that those who took beta-blockers were significantly more likely to die from heart disease or other causes than those who were prescribed ACE inhibitors.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects a third of UK adults – although many don’t realize it because the condition rarely has any noticeable symptoms. The only way to know if your blood pressure is high is to get it checked.
Cardiologist Professor Martin Cowie of King’s College London said: ‘Beta-blockers have not been the first choice for treating hypertension for some time and they would not be given to newly diagnosed patients. But there are many patients who have been taking them for years and are reluctant to switch because they feel they work well.
“The results of this study confirm what doctors have known for some time and show that it may be a good idea for patients to have an open mind when speaking to their GP and considering taking a different drug in the future.”