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Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE): Quality-assessed Reviews [Internet]. York (UK): Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (UK); 1995-.

Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE): Quality-assessed Reviews [Internet].

beta-Adrenoceptor antagonists in elderly patients with heart failure: a critical review of their efficacy and tolerability

Review published: 2007.

Bibliographic details: Dobre D, Haaijer-Ruskamp F M, Voors A A, van Veldhuisen D J.  beta-Adrenoceptor antagonists in elderly patients with heart failure: a critical review of their efficacy and tolerability. Drugs and Aging 2007; 24(12): 1031-1044. [PubMed: 18020535]


Heart failure (HF) is a major public health problem among the elderly. The syndrome of HF may arise in the presence of either a depressed or apparently normal left-ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF). The latter entity is more common in the elderly. In elderly patients with HF, prescription of a beta-adrenoceptor antagonist may raise concerns regarding efficacy and tolerability. Because of these concerns, but also as a result of a paucity of published data, beta-adrenoceptor antagonists are under-prescribed to elderly patients with HF in general practice. We review the evidence regarding the efficacy and tolerability of beta-adrenoceptor antagonist therapy in elderly patients with HF. We found three major sources of evidence: one prospective, randomised controlled trial (RCT), SENIORS (Study of the Effects of Nebivolol Intervention on Outcomes and Rehospitalisation in Seniors with Heart Failure); a subgroup meta-analysis of elderly patients included in systolic HF trials; and a large number of observational studies. SENIORS showed that the third-generation beta-adrenoceptor antagonist nebivolol reduces the risk of all-cause mortality or cardiovascular admission in elderly patients (aged > or =70 years) with HF and a broad range of LVEF. The subgroup meta-analysis of RCTs showed that beta-adrenoceptor antagonists reduce mortality in elderly patients (aged 60-80 years) with systolic HF, and that the benefit is similar to that observed in non-elderly patients (aged <60 years). The observational studies showed a beneficial effect of beta-adrenoceptor antagonists in elderly populations in daily practice, including those with depressed and preserved LVEF. However, the effect of beta-adrenoceptor antagonists on all-cause mortality may be lower in very elderly patients (aged >75 years). Approximately two-thirds of elderly patients with HF tolerate a beta-adrenoceptor antagonist, but only 40-70% of the target doses recommended in RCTs are achieved. Some clinical variables may predict low beta-adrenoceptor antagonist tolerability, such as low systolic blood pressure, higher New York Heart Association HF severity class, advanced age and ischaemic cause of HF. Furthermore, prescription of a high diuretic dose and calcium channel antagonists may also decrease beta-adrenoceptor antagonist tolerability. However, it is difficult to identify on clinical grounds patients intolerant to any beta-adrenoceptor antagonist dose. Low-dose therapy (<50% target dose) may be effective in an elderly population with HF, but prescription of at least a medium dose (> or =50% target dose) may achieve a higher benefit. In conclusion, although elderly patients with HF take lower doses of beta-adrenoceptor antagonists, these agents are still effective and overall well tolerated in this population. Elderly patients with HF should therefore not be denied beta-adrenoceptor antagonist therapy. The dilemma relies on dose-benefit balance, as higher doses would be more effective but may raise tolerability concerns. The beneficial effects of use of beta-adrenoceptor antagonists in elderly patients with HF and preserved LVEF need to be further confirmed in large RCTs.

CRD has determined that this article meets the DARE scientific quality criteria for a systematic review.

Copyright © 2014 University of York.

PMID: 18020535

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