A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that beta blockers may not help people with heart disease minimize the risk of heart attacks or strokes. The researchers studied more than 40,000 patients who had a history of heart disease. Many of the patients had suffered from a stroke or heart attack. The statistics showed that the patients who took beta blockers didn’t have a noticeably lower chance of suffering from a stroke or heart attack.
The study was discouraging for many medical professionals, because they have been prescribing beta blockers to their patients since the 1960s. However, they can’t agree as to whether or not they should continue prescribing them to their patients. Some physicians said they are glad that researchers are finally investigating the effectiveness of beta blockers. Beta blockers have been a commonly used medication to treat heart disease for decades, but no one has reviewed their findings.
Some doctors are particularly weary of the study’s approach, even if they support the overall goal. The authors of the study didn’t use a randomly selected sample size, which suggests that the data may not be as accurate as they would have thought.
Another limitation of the study was that the researchers didn’t have access to the patients’ medical histories. They tried to estimate the risk factor in these patients by studying their demographic information. Some critics argue that this could have led to questionable findings.
Randal Thomas is a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic. Thomas remains skeptical of the study’s findings, but feels they are a compelling preliminary finding. He said that followup studies will be conducted which may shed more light on the topic.
Dr. Melvin Rubenfire said he is glad study was conducted, but doesn’t feel it will have as much of an impact on his prescription practices. Rubenfire said that the study gave no insight into which types of beta blockers might work best and what types of patietns might benefit from them. He rarely prescribes beta blockers to his patients and tries to use them as a short-term treatment aid.
Rubenfire raised an important point. A number of beta blockers are available on the market. Some beta blockers may not do the job effectively and may have misled researchers to believe that none of them are useful for patients suffering from heart disease.
[box type=”important”]One of the study’s coauthors, Christopher Cannon of Harvard Medical School, is one of the skeptics. Cannon said that the study shows a need for more followup studies on the topic, but doesn’t want any of his colleagues to alter their medical p[/box]