Beta Blocker Drugs Useless for Most People

Gaia Health
by Heidi Stevenson

Beta blocker drugs, routinely given to people who’ve never suffered a heart attack, offer no benefit in most cases, and can cause immense harm in all cases. Evidence-based medicine is again shown to be a farce.

Yet another drug group, beta blockers, is being proven to be useless. These drugs, which block adrenalin, are routinely prescribed to people who’ve had heart attacks and people who are defined as being at risk for them. In other words, they’re given at the drop of a blood test.

There is, of course, an excuse being used for the finding. It’s implied that beta blockers don’t work because this is the era of “reperfusion”, which is a group of treatments that supposedly help keep blood vessels open. These include aspirin, stenting, and angioplasty. In other words, they’re claiming that the current treatments are so superior that beta blockers are no longer needed.

Of course, the study didn’t demonstrate that, but it sounds good, so they’re sticking with it. Besides, it most assuredly does not explain why there’s no benefit from beta blockers before people have had heart attacks, during which time they will not have had any of the reperfusion treatments, with the possible exception of aspirin. The only thing that’s clear from the claim is just how far modern medicine’s apologists will go in trying to explain away the truth.

If you’re taking beta blockers, do not stop taking them suddenly. It can be very dangerous, so be sure to discuss it with your doctor before quitting.

The Study

The study, published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), is entitled β-Blocker Use and Clinical Outcomes in Stable Outpatients With and Without Coronary Artery Disease. The researchers followed 44,708 patients for an average (median) of 44 months. The outcome measures were:

The primary outcome was a composite of cardiovascular death, nonfatal MI, or nonfatal stroke. The secondary outcome was the primary outcome plus hospitalization for atherothrombotic events or a revascularization procedure.

The abstract starts with a statement that beta blockers are the standard of care immediately after myocardial infarctions (heart attacks), but then goes on to say:  

However, the benefit of β-blocker use in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) but no history of MI, those with a remote history of MI [myocardial infarction], and those with only risk factors for CAD is unclear.

That statement alone clarifies that the routine use of beta blockers in massive numbers of people who’ve never suffered a heart attack has absolutely nothing to do with evidence. It’s a clear demonstration that doctors’ claims of basing their practices on science or evidence-based medicine are nothing short of farcical.

Why This Study Matters

What made this study unique, as compared to most produced by the pharmaceutical companies, is that they looked at cardiovascular deaths and nonfatal heart attacks and deaths, rather than focusing on markers, such as blood pressure and cholesterol. This is highly significant. The reason people take these drugs is to avoid death and disability from disease, not to avoid high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Those are not diseases. They may be indicators of disease states, but they are not, themselves, diseases. One of the nastiest tricks used by Big Pharma is the substitution of markers like these for the real concern: death and debility from disease.

The study found that people defined as having cardiovascular disease, there is no benefit in taking beta blocking drugs. Only those who have recently suffered from heart attacks may benefit. The time after a heart attack during which beta blockers may help is unknown. The study did find benefit in patients who were taking beta blockers during the year after suffering a heart attack.

The lead author, Sripal Bangalore of New York University School of Medicine, told heartwire:  Though the guidelines are kind of aligned with what we are showing, in practice that’s not true. It’s common to see beta blockers being prescribed because of the perception that they are perhaps beneficial. But we should be extra careful in making those extrapolations.

Beta blockers are frequently prescribed to people only because their blood pressure is determined to be higher than is currently believed to be good. Of course, it has never been demonstrated that artificially lowering blood pressure prevents heart attacks, but that certainly doesn’t stop them from prescribing drugs to lower it.

So, what risks are taken by people in exchange for beta blockers’ complete lack of benefit? They are not small. In fact, it’s probable that people have died as a result. Adverse effects include liver damage, impotence, fatigue and inability to exercise, wheezing, damage to peripheral nerves, thrombocytopenia, lupus erythematosus symptoms, anaphylaxis, hypercalcemia (excess calcium), hypomagnesia (inadequate magnesium), death of the skin (which can be life-threatening), and more.

Evidence-Based Medicine?

Yet again, we have solid evidence that the so-called scientific basis of “evidence-based medicine” is hardly existent. Beta blockers may have value, but hardly anyone taking them for cardiovascular disease receives any benefit—and all face grave risks from them. This is the reality.

“Evidence-based medicine” is little more than a clever marketing gimmick. When selling clothing, that’s generally not a big problem. Caveat emptor doesn’t matter so much when shopping for clothes. However, when it comes to taking pharmaceutical drugs and other medical treatments, caveat emptor should never be a concern for the patient. The doctor should be screening products, not acting as sales agents for Big Pharma.

CEO Who Oversaw Mass Vioxx Deaths Now Teaching at Harvard and on Microsoft Board of Directors


Raymond Gilmartin’s landing was a soft one after leaving behind an embattled Merck. The one-time top executive of the leading pharmaceutical company, which was engulfed in the Vioxx controversy last decade, splits his time these days between teaching part-time at Harvard and serving on the boards of major corporations.

Gilmartin served as Merck’s president and CEO for 12 years (1994-2006) during troubles that stemmed from the company’s anti-arthritis medicine Vioxx. Despite knowing that Vioxx was potentially lethal, Merck put it on the market in 1999. Although a Food and Drug Administration study showed that perhaps 55,000 Americans died from heart attacks and strokes after using Vioxx, other sources indicated that upwards of 500,000 people—almost all of them older adults—may have died from the drug, which produced lawsuit after lawsuit against Merck. The company wound up settling for $4.85 billion.

Before it was pulled from the market in 2004, the drug was very profitable for Merck, earning about $2 billion per year in revenue at its peak. It also paid handsomely for Gilmartin, who reportedly made $50 million in just five of his years at the corporate helm.

After retiring from his post, Gilmartin joined the faculty of Harvard Business School, where, according to the school’s Web site, he still serves as an adjunct professor, teaching second-year MBA candidates to run businesses just like he did in a course called Building and Sustaining Successful Enterprises.

Gilmartin also serves on the boards of General Mills, Inc., and the Microsoft Corporation.

Diet soft drinks may raise stroke risk, study suggests, Feb. 10, 2011

The research was presented this week at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2011. It found that people who drank diet pop every day had a 48 per cent higher risk of stroke or heart attack than people who said they never drank the stuff.

The study’s lead researcher, Hannah Gardener, an epidemiologist at the University of Miami, says she has no idea why diet soft drinks could be risky.

“If our results are confirmed with future studies, then it would suggest that diet soda may not be the optimal substitute for sugar-sweetened beverages for protection against vascular outcomes,” Gardener said in a news release.

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