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Am J Cardiol. 2010 May 15;105(10):1433-8. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2009.12.068. Epub 2010 Mar 30.

Why beta-blockers should not be used as first choice in uncomplicated hypertension.

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Institute of Cardiology, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Rome, Italy.


In the past 4 decades, beta blockers (BBs) have been widely used in the treatment of uncomplicated hypertension and are still recommended as first-line agents in national and international guidelines. Their putative cardioprotective properties, however, derive from the extrapolation into primary prevention of data relative to the reduction of mortality observed in the 1970s in patients with previous myocardial infarctions. In the past 5 years, a critical reanalysis of older trials, together with several meta-analyses, has shown that in patients with uncomplicated hypertension BBs exert a relatively weak effect in reducing stroke compared to placebo or no treatment, do not have any protective effect with regard to coronary artery disease and, compared to other drugs, such as calcium channel blockers, renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system inhibitors or thiazide diuretics, show evidence of worse outcomes, particularly with regard to stroke. Several reasons can explain their reduced cardioprotection: their suboptimal effect in lowering blood pressure compared to other drugs; their "pseudoantihypertensive" efficacy (failure to lower central aortic pressure); their undesirable adverse effects, which reduce patients' compliance; their unfavorable metabolic effects; their lack of an effect on regression of left ventricular hypertrophy and endothelial dysfunction. In conclusion, the available evidence does not support the use of BBs as first-line drugs in the treatment of hypertension. Whether newer BBs, such as nebivolol and carvedilol, which show vasodilatory properties and a more favorable hemodynamic and metabolic profile, will be more efficacious in reducing morbidity and mortality remains to be determined.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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