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β-Blockers May Be Beneficial in Treating COPD

Associated with decreased risks of mortality and exacerbations

MONDAY, May 24 (HealthDay News) -- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients taking β-blockers may have a decreased risk of exacerbations, as well as a decreased mortality risk, according to research published in the May 24 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Frans H. Rutten, M.D., of the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands, and colleagues conducted an observational cohort study of 2,230 patients aged 45 and older with a prevalent or incident diagnosis of COPD from 1996 to 2006. Data was obtained from the patients' electronic medical records and encompassed standardized patient information, including diagnosis and medication prescriptions.

During a mean follow-up period of 7.2 years, the researchers found that 47.3 percent of the patients had exacerbations of COPD, and 30.8 percent died. The adjusted hazard ratio of β-blocker use for mortality was 0.68, and the adjusted hazard ratio for exacerbations of COPD was 0.71. The subgroup of patients with COPD who had no overt signs of cardiovascular disease experienced similar results.

"The study by Rutten et al provocatively suggests that the use of β-blockers, contrary to classic teaching, is not only safe but also can prolong survival and reduce exacerbations in COPD, providing new hope for patients with COPD. However, before we can fully accept this notion, a large, well-conducted, randomized controlled trial will be needed to confirm these findings. Until then, the data by Rutten and colleagues provide a rationale for the practicing clinicians to use β-blockers (even noncardioselective ones such as carvedilol) cautiously in their patients with COPD who also have a coexisting cardiovascular condition for which a β-blocker is required," write the authors of an accompanying editorial.

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