JAMA logo Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is apparently believed to be the third leading cause of death, in the western world. Usually, patients with this disease seem to suffer from emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and they are probably prone to face and die from cardiovascular diseases. A recent study by the University Medical Center Utrecht, the Netherlands revealed that, including medications of beta blockers may prove beneficial to cure blood pressure and heart rhythm disorders.

Beta blockers are also known to enhance the survival of patients with cardiovascular disease. But doctors do not recommend beta blockers, as they are assumed to significantly affect the lungs. The authors analyzed the data from electronic medical records of 2,230 patients. All the patients suffered from COPD and, were at an average age of 64.8.

Between 1996 and 2006, these patients visited 23 general medical practices. It should be noted that, among these patients, 560 had COPD at the start of the study and 1,670 patients developed it during the study period. Only 665 patients were given beta blockers and the remaining 1,565 were not provided with the same.

Frans H. Rutten, M.D., Ph.D., of University Medical Center Utrecht, the Netherlands and colleagues quoted, “To our knowledge, this is the first observational study that shows that long-term treatment with beta blockers may improve survival and reduce the risk of an exacerbation of COPD in the broad spectrum of patients with a diagnosis of COPD, including those who have COPD with but, importantly, also without overt cardiovascular comorbidities.”

The follow-up of the study continued for an average of 7.2 years. It appeared that 30.8 percent, which approximately came up to 686 patients probably died including 27.2 percent using beta blockers. Moreover, 47.3 percent i.e, 1.055 patients, developed at least one exacerbation of COPD. 42.7 percent of patients used beta blockers and 49.3 percent who were not using beta blockers.

There were 1,229 patients that belonged to the subgroup with no overt cardiovascular disease. Amongst them, 42.3 percent who formed 520 patients, seemed to develop at least one exacerbation of COPD, while 19.6 percent, approximately 241 patients died. These patients included 19.4 percent i.e. 239 patients that used beta blockers.

Therefore, whether beta blockers are beneficial or not, continues to remain unknown to the authors. Further studies should be undertaken, by efficiently utilizing randomized controlled trails to determine the benefits of employing beta blockers in patients with COPD.

The study was published in the May 24 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.