Beta-Blockers don’t appear to Work

They have treated heart disease for 40 years, but it now seems that beta blockers don’t work. What went wrong?

IT IS very rare for new evidence to question or even negate the utility of a well-established class of drugs. But after four decades as a standard therapy for heart disease and high blood pressure, it looks like this fate will befall beta blockers. Two major studies published within about a week of each other suggest that the drugs do not work for these conditions. This is a big surprise, with big implications.

The first beta blocker, Inderal, was launched in 1964 by Imperial Chemical Industries for treatment of angina. This drug has been hailed as one of great medical advances of the 20th century. Its inventor, James Black, was awarded the Nobel prize in medicine in 1988.

The 20 or so beta blockers now on the market are very widely used – almost 200 million prescriptions were written for them in the US in 2010. They are standard issue for most people with heart disease or high blood pressure. This may now change.

A large study published last month in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that beta blockers did not prolong the lives of patients – a revelation that must have left many cardiologists shaking their heads (JAMA, vol 308, p 1340). Continue reading Beta-Blockers don’t appear to Work

Safety of Calcium Supplements questioned

People who take calcium supplements could be increasing their risk of having a heart attack, according to researchers in Germany.

Calcium is often taken by older people to strengthen bones and prevent fractures.

But the study, published in the journal Heart, said the supplements “should be taken with caution”.

Experts say promoting a balanced diet including calcium would be a better strategy.

The researchers at the German Cancer Research Centre, in Heidelberg, followed 23,980 people for more than a decade.

They compared the number of heart attacks in people who were taking calcium supplements with those who did not.

There were 851 heart attacks among the 15,959 people who did not take any supplements at all. However, people taking calcium supplements were 86% more likely to have had a heart attack during the study. Continue reading Safety of Calcium Supplements questioned