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Beta blockers often prescribed unnecessarily

Tuesday 30th May 2017
Beta blockers are often being prescribed unnecessarily to patients who have suffered heart attacks but who have not also experienced heart failure. Image: millionsjoker via iStock
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Beta blockers are being unnecessarily prescribed to heart attack survivors as they have no significant effect on helping to extend their lives, according to a new study.
 
Researchers based at the University of Leeds analysed data relating to 179,810 patients who suffered a heart attack between 2007 and 2013, but who did not experience heart failure. Some were prescribed beta blockers following the incident, but others were not, allowing the study authors to compare the effects of both approaches of aftercare on preventing premature death.
 
Doctors found that there was no significant difference in death rates one year on from a heart attack in patients prescribed beta blockers compared to those who weren't taking any specialist medication to lower their blood pressure and stabilise their heartbeat.
 
However, beta blockers were found to be effective in extending the lives of heart attack patients who had also suffered heart failure, indicating that they do still need to be prescribed for these individuals.
 
Chris Gale, a consultant cardiologist at the York hospital trust and professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Leeds, explained: "There is uncertainty in the evidence as to the benefit of beta blockers for patients with heart attack and who do not have heart failure.
 
"This study suggests that there may be no mortality advantage associated with the prescription of beta blockers for patients with heart attack and no heart failure."
 
The results of this research indicate that fewer prescriptions of beta blockers among heart attack patients who have not suffered heart failure as well could have potential benefits for their long-term health, alongside helping to save money and valuable resources for the NHS.
 
Currently, approximately 95 per cent of heart attack survivors who did not experience heart failure are prescribed these drugs, so a significant sum could be saved if hospital doctors and pharmacists review their stance on prescribing beta blockers in the near future.
 
Written by James Puckle
 
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