Beta blockers axed for blood pressureNewer drugs cut risk of heart attacks by half

28 June 2006

Up to 2 million people suffering with high blood pressure are to be taken off beta blockers in favour of more effective drugs.

New guidance from National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), which advises the NHS on the best treatments, asks GPs to switch patients to other treatments including calcium channel blockers, diuretics and ACE inhibitors.

The guidance comes after research showed that taking newer drugs to treat high blood pressure cuts the risk of heart attacks and strokes by half when compared to older treatments.

Risk of diabetes

Nice also said the decision was based on increasing evidence that the most frequently used beta-blockers at usual doses carried an unacceptable risk of provoking type 2 diabetes.

It's estimated that around 40 per cent of adults in England and Wales suffer from high blood pressure. About 2 million people take beta-blockers in the UK, although some take the drugs for conditions such as angina and anxiety. They will be unaffected by the changes.

A spokeswoman for the Blood Pressure Association said: 'This is good news for patients and they should not panic and think that beta-blockers are bad. What we are saying is that there are newer, more effective drugs available and patients should talk to their health professionals about that.'