Researchers indicate that a class of heart drugs, known as beta-blockers, may provide little benefit in actually preventing strokes and heart problems, which is a common reason the medications are prescribed.
In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers found that drugs like Sectral, Tenormin and Zebeta do not actually help much in preventing heart attacks and strokes, calling into question decades of beta-blocker use by doctors to protect patients’ hearts after a heart attack.
Researchers looked at about 45,000 patients who had suffered heart attacks and coronary heart disease. Statistically, the drugs appeared to do nothing to lower the rate of heart attack, death by cardiac arrest or stroke.
While the study concluded that the use of beta blockers was not associated with a lowered rate of cardiovascular problems, researchers said that the nature of the study, which was an observational study, was questionable and called for randomized drug trials to confirm the findings.
Some experts cautioned doctors against abandoning the use of beta blockers until more research can be complete.
Future studies could focus on which patients are most helped by beta blockers, which beta blockers are most effective, if any are effective at all, and what conditions they best treat.
Beta blockers prevent the heart from being stressed by blocking adrenaline receptors in the brain. They are used for the treatment of a number of heart conditions, such as atrial fibrillation, cardiac arrhythmia, congestive heart failure and hypertension. Adverse side effects of beta blockers can include erectile dysfunction and fatigue.