Beta blockers don’t protect against heart attack, stroke
Beta blocker drugs have been given to heart patients for more than 40 years – but scientists have discovered only this week they have almost no protective effect.
The drugs are routinely given to patients with coronary artery disease (CAD), especially if they have suffered a heart attack.
But researchers have discovered that patients taking the drugs are just as likely as people not taking the drugs to suffer a second heart attack or stroke. Even patients who have had a heart attack aren’t protected, say researchers from New York University’s School of Medicine, who tracked 44,708 heart patients for more than three years.
This is the second blow for the beta-blockers in recent times. In 2009, they were also found to be ineffective in reducing high blood pressure (hypertension), even though they were the first-line treatment for years.
Defenders of the drug argue that, while it may be ineffective, it is also harmless, and has few side effects other than causing dizziness. This is not the case: studies have discovered the drugs could raise the risk of developing type II diabetes by 30 per cent.
(Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2012; 308: 1340-9).