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Wednesday 26th October 2016

Beta blockers to be phased out

30th June 2006

Two million Britons are to be taken off blood pressure drugs after studies showed they increase the risk of strokes, heart attacks and diabetes. 

Beta blockers will no longer routinely be prescribed for high blood pressure after the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence ruled other drugs are better at treating the condition, also known as hypertension, which affects 40 per cent of adults, and costs around £90 million in prescriptions.

The guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), developed in conjunction with the British Hypertension Society, is an update of NICE guidance published in 2004 - but only the section on drugs for managing hypertension has been republished.

The hypertension guidance was not due for an update until 2009 but new research prompted NICE to take a fresh look. In 2004 a large trial was stopped early because the results with newer drugs to lower blood pressure were so good.

Two million people in the UK are currently treated with Beta-blockers for hypertension. The drugs are also used to treat heart failure and angina and should still be used for these problems.

But NICE now says the evidence suggests they perform less well than other drugs in treating high blood pressure, particularly in the elderly, and there is increasing evidence that they carry an "unacceptable risk" of provoking type 2 diabetes.

If a person's blood pressure remains too high - the target is 140/90mmHg - they can take a second group of drugs called ACE inhibitors and if they need further treatment the GP can add whichever of the three the person has yet to take.

Experts were quick to advise patients not to stop taking their medication and said a discussion should be undertaken with their GP at their next routine appointment.


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