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GPs “overestimating risks from beta blockers”

13 September 2007

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Some GPs overestimate the risks associated with the use of beta blocker drugs in the fight against heart disease, researchers say.

The medication is known to cut deaths and hospital visits for patients with heart failure.

But despite the evidence, the prescribing of beta blockers to treat heart problems in the UK is low, the British Pharmaceutical Conference (BPC) in Manchester was told.

The study, based in Bradford, also found that GPs do understand the relative risks and benefits in the treatment of heart failure, indicating that a lack of knowledge is not harming prescription rates.

Pharmacist Dr Duncan Petty from the University of Leeds, who led the research, said:

“The study assessed GPs’ knowledge of beta blockers through a questionnaire, and found that although GPs were aware of the scale of the benefits, they tended to overestimate adverse effects compared to placebo.

“The harmful effects of beta blockers in patients with heart failure who do not have contraindications are small.

“However, the benefits are high, as are those for ACE-inhibitor drugs that are also used to treat heart failure.

“We know these drugs can save lives, so we need to conduct more research to determine why the prescribing rate of beta blockers for heart failure is exceptionally low in the UK.”

University of Leeds

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