Half of patients failing to keep up beta-blocker use

Half of all patients prescribed beta-blockers for heart failure stop using the drug within three years, UK research suggests.

The four-year retrospective study focused on 12,493 patients who had presented with heart failure, angina or MI and been prescribed a beta-blocker for the first time.

Patients who did not pick up a new prescription for beta-blockers after three months were considered to have stopped treatment.

Overall, the researchers found that, after a year, 27 per cent of patients discontinued beta-blocker use. This rose to 39 per cent after two years and 50 per cent after three years.

Women were more likely to discontinue beta-blocker therapy than men and patients over the age of 80 also had high rates of discontinuation.

Lead researcher Dr George Kassianos, a GP in Berkshire and a member of the British Cardiology Society, told GP that the study had used data from the general practice research database, which involves practices across the UK, to give a good snapshot of the overall situation.

'Although the study did not examine the possible causes of beta-blocker discontinuation, side-effects such as fatigue are likely to be the reason so many patients were stopping their beta-blockers,' he said.

Dr Kassianos added that GPs needed to make sure they monitored beta-blocker use in their patients.

'These findings could also apply to other cardiovascular drugs as well, so we need to look at ways of improving drug compliance,' he said.

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