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Beta-blockers may cut risk of COPD exacerbations

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Beta-blockers could in future be used to reduce the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations, according to study findings from northern Europe.

Though primarily used to treat stress or heart problems, the new results suggest they could have a potential benefit for patients with COPD.

“If randomised controlled trials confirm our findings, we could see promising clinical implications”

Lies Lahousse

Previous research has suggested a beneficial effects from beta-blockers in COPD patients, despite the drugs being suspected of tightening muscles in the airways, contributing to breathing problems.

The new study, presented at the European Respiratory Society’s Lung Science Conference in Estoril, Portugal, aimed to understand the link and to analyse if any potential benefit on exacerbations existed for COPD patients taking the drug. Researchers analysed the health records of 1,621 COPD patients.

Patients were followed until an exacerbation occurred, with data collected on the use of different kinds of beta-blockers and whether the patient also experienced heart failure.

The study revealed that the use of cardio selective beta-blockers – primarily used to treat heart disease – reduced the relative risk of exacerbations by 21%.

The benefits were increased for patients with heart failure who saw a reduced risk of 55%, said the researchers.

Ghent University Hospital

Beta-blockers ‘may cut risk of COPD exacerbations’

Lies Lahousse

Lead author Lies Lahousse, a postdoctoral fellow from Ghent University Hospital in Belgium, said: “The overlap in symptoms and risk factors associated with lung and heart disease can be complicated and we know that a reduction in lung function is also associated with a reduction in heart function.

“These preliminary findings offer a useful insight into the potential benefits of beta blockers for patients living with heart disease at the same time as COPD,” she said. “If randomised controlled trials confirm our findings, we could see promising clinical implications.”

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