Beta blockers are no better than a sugar pill

Although beta blockers have been used for over 30 years to treat high blood pressure in elderly people, new analysis has discovered that the drugs are no more effective than a sugar pill.

Diuretic treatment is far more effective and should be considered as the first line treatment among the elderly, researchers from the Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans discovered when they analysed 10 trials from a Medline search.

Not only are beta blockers more dangerous the elderly are more likely to suffer a sudden and fatal heart attack while taking them they are also less effective. Less than one third of the 2000 patients in one study had their high blood pressure effectively controlled by the drug, compared with the two thirds who had theirs successfully treated with diuretics (JAMA, 1998; 279: 1903-7).