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Pharmacoeconomics. 1993 Aug;4(2):104-21.

Formulary considerations in selection of beta-blockers.

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Department of Pharmacy Practice, School of Pharmacy, Campbell University, Durham, North Carolina.


Selection of beta-adrenergic blockers for formulary addition can be a difficult task, especially with the increasing availability of new beta-blockers, as well as the numerous differences in pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic properties of currently available agents. Nevertheless, appropriate evaluation of the important characteristics of beta-blockers should allow selection of the most cost-effective agents for formulary addition. Most importantly, differences in efficacy, product formulation and cost should be carefully considered when making formulary decisions. Notably, evidence from clinical trials indicates differences in efficacy among beta-blockers for post-myocardial infarction prophylaxis, situational anxiety, essential tremor, thyrotoxicosis, migraine prophylaxis and prevention of bleeding associated with oesophageal varices. For many clinical situations, it is also important to select an effective agent that is available in both an oral and intravenous formulation, especially for cardioprotection after acute myocardial infarction and for use in supraventricular arrhythmias. In addition, availability of sustained release products and generic formulations should be considered for their potential to increase compliance and decrease cost, respectively. Comparative drug costs, as well as costs associated with decreased compliance, should also be carefully evaluated. Differences in beta-receptor selectivity, duration of action and presence of intrinsic sympathomimetic activity (ISA) are also important considerations in the selection of beta-blockers for formulary consideration. Although degree of selectivity is relative, beta 1-selective agents may be less likely to induce bronchospasm in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and may be less likely to affect glucose homeostasis in patients with diabetes mellitus. Duration of action of a beta-blocker is an important consideration for evaluation of efficacy throughout the recommended dosage interval. In addition, beta-blockers with a long duration of action can often be administered once or twice daily, potentially leading to increased compliance and thereby improved effectiveness and economic efficiency. The presence of ISA is an important consideration because certain beta-blockers with ISA may be less effective than those without ISA for certain indications. Factors considered to be less important when making formulary decisions of choice of beta-blockers include the route of elimination, lipophilicity and presence of membrane stabilising activity.

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