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Drugs. 1997 Jul;54(1):161-85.

Carvedilol. A reappraisal of its pharmacological properties and therapeutic use in cardiovascular disorders.

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Adis International Limited, Auckland, New Zealand.


Carvedilol competitively blocks beta 1, beta 2 and alpha 1 receptors. The drug lacks sympathomimetic activity and has vasodilating properties that are exerted primarily through alpha 1-blockade. Animal models indicate that carvedilol confers protection against myocardial necrosis, arrhythmia and cell damage caused by oxidising free radicals, and the drug has no adverse effects on plasma lipid profiles. Recent data have confirmed the antihypertensive efficacy of carvedilol in patients with mild to moderate essential hypertension. Carvedilol has similar efficacy to other beta-blocking agents, calcium antagonists, ACE inhibitors and hydrochlorothiazide. Carvedilol also improves exercise tolerance and ischaemic symptoms in patients with stable angina pectoris. Significant reductions in serious cardiac events after acute myocardial infarction and in frequency and severity of ischaemic events in patients with unstable angina have also been demonstrated. Interest in the use of carvedilol in patients with congestive heart failure (CHF) has culminated in the publication of a cumulative analysis of data from 1094 patients with mild to severe CHF who participated in the US Carvedilol Heart Failure Study Program (4 trials). After a median follow-up of 6.5 months, a significant overall reduction in mortality relative to placebo (3.2 vs 7.8%) was revealed in patients who had received carvedilol 6.25 to 50 mg twice daily (plus diuretics and ACE inhibitors). All-cause mortality, risk of hospitalisation for cardiovascular reasons and hospitalisation costs were also reduced significantly (by 65, 28% and 62%, respectively) in these trials. In addition, the Australia and New Zealand Heart Failure Research Collaborative Group showed a 26% reduction in the combined risk of death or hospitalisation with carvedilol 12.5 to 50 mg/day relative to placebo after a mean 19-month follow-up period in 415 patients with CHF (relative risk 0.74). Adverse events with carvedilol appear to be less frequent than with other beta-blocking agents, are dosage-related and are usually seen early in therapy. Events most commonly reported are related to the vasodilating (postural hypotension, dizziness and headaches) and the beta-blocking (dyspnoea, bronchospasm, bradycardia, malaise and asthenia) properties of the drug. Carvedilol appears to date to have little effect on the incidence of worsening heart failure. Concomitant administration of carvedilol with some medications requires monitoring. Carvedilol is therefore likely to have a beneficial role in the management of controlled CHF, but further clinical studies are required to show the place of beta-adrenoceptor blocking therapy in general in this indication, and the position of carvedilol relative to other similar agents. Carvedilol is also confirmed as effective in the management of mild to moderate hypertension and ischaemic heart disease.

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