Blood Pressure Rx for Heart Failure May Extend Life

Systolic heart failure patients who take beta blockers may live longer

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Common blood pressure medications called beta blockers have been shown to help some heart failure patients. But the latest research has found that the medications may help a wider range of heart failure patients live longer.

Beta blockers treat high blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels and slowing the heart rate. Past research has found that beta blockers can effectively treat patients with diastolic heart failure.

And a new study has tied the medications to a reduced death rate among patients with another type of heart failure, called systolic heart failure.

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart isn’t pumping well enough to meet the body’s needs. Heart failure can be divided into two categories. With diastolic heart failure, the heart contracts normally but doesn’t relax as it should. In systolic heart failure, the heart does not contract as it should.

Lars H. Lund, MD, of the Department of Cardiology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, led the research.

There is no proven therapy for patients with systolic heart failure, the researchers noted. Dr. Lund and colleagues wanted to see how beta blockers might help patients with systolic heart failure. Before starting this study, they had found little or inconclusive evidence supporting the use of beta blockers to treat systolic heart failure.

The authors reviewed data on 5,496 patients with systolic heart failure who were treated with beta blockers and 2,748 who were untreated. They also looked at results for 4,054 patients with diastolic heart failure who took beta blockers and 2,027 who did not.

Dr. Lund and team found that 45 percent of systolic heart failure patients who were treated with beta blockers survived at least five years — compared to 42 percent of those patients who were untreated. A total of 41 percent of the treated systolic heart failure patients died, while 45 percent of the untreated systolic heart failure patients died.

Beta blockers, however, did not appear to lower combined all-cause mortality (death from any cause) or heart failure hospitalization, Dr. Lund and team noted.

In a related editorial, Susan Cheng, MD, and Marc A. Pfeffer, MD, PhD, of the Cardiovascular Division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, indicated that more extensive trials are needed to determine whether beta blockers treat systolic heart failure.

Some common beta blockers are propranolol (brand names Inderal and InnoPran), atenolol (Tenormin), metoprolol (Lopressor and Toprol) and bisoprolol (Zebeta).

This study was published Nov. 19 in JAMA.

The Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Heart-Lung Foundation and the Stockholm County Council funded the study. The authors disclosed ties to AstraZeneca, Novartis, Vifor Pharma and Boston Scientific.

Review Date: 
November 16, 2014
Last Updated:
November 19, 2014