Beta-blocker drugs appear to help people with heart failure, a finding that may ease concerns about possible adverse side effects in patients with the deteriorating condition, a study said on Monday.
Although beta-blocker therapy was associated with low blood pressure, dizziness, and slow heart beat, “the absolute increases in risk were small,” said the report from the University of Toronto and Yale University School of Medicine.
“Our findings should alleviate concerns of physicians who are reluctant to prescribe beta-blockers because of their cardiovascular adverse effects and support the implementation of this lifesaving therapy to appropriate candidates with heart failure,” concluded the report published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
The drugs work by blocking beta-adrenergic substances, helping relieve stress on the heart, slowing the heart beat, lessening the force with which the heart muscle contracts and reducing blood vessel contraction in the heart, brain, and throughout the body. They are commonly used to treat high blood pressure and angina and to prevent a recurrence of heart attack.
Monday’s study was based on a review of nine published studies involving 14,596 patients that compared beta-blockers with inert placebos. Follow-up periods ranged from six months to two years.
The researchers said beta-blocker therapy was associated with a significant, 27 percent relative reduction of overall mortality.
“The principal finding ... is that despite concerns about adverse effects, fewer patients with heart failure assigned to receive beta-blockers were withdrawn from (the tests) than were those assigned to receive placebo,” the authors said.
“This difference was primarily owing to a reduction of worsening heart failure associated with beta-blocker therapy,” they added.
Revision date: July 3, 2011
Last revised: by Tatiana Kuznetsova, D.M.D.