A Cleveland Clinic study is reporting that beta-blockers, a class of drugs used to lower blood pressure and prevent symptoms in a variety of heart conditions, can slow progression and can even induce regression of coronary artery disease.
The study appears in the July 3, 2007, issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine and suggests that all patients with coronary disease can benefit from this class of agents. Coronary artery disease or clogging of vessels supplying the heart is one of the most common causes of death in the United States and other developed countries. Currently, more than 15 million Americans have coronary artery disease. Researchers aimed to identify whether beta-blockers have any effect on progression of coronary disease in a group of more than 1,500 patients with this disease. They began by measuring the amount of fatty plaque found in the arteries of these patients, using high-resolution intravascular ultrasound. This required the insertion of tiny ultrasonic transducers in the coronary arteries to provide a baseline examination. Subsequently, the ultrasound examination was repeated after 18 to 24 months and the progression rate of coronary disease was compared in patients who were treated with beta-blockers and those who were not treated with these agents. The researchers found that patients treated with beta-blockers had a significant reduction in the amount of fatty plaque at the follow-up examination, whereas those not on a beta-blocker experienced no change in the amount of plaque. “Our results have important implications,” said Ilke Sipahi, M.D., F.A.C.C., a Cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic and the study’s lead author. “Up to now, we thought that beta-blockers were beneficial only to preserve heart muscle function in patients with a previous injury to their heart due to a heart attack. Now we learn that these drugs also have favorable effects on the coronary arteries by reducing clogging of these vessels in a similar fashion to cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. Our results indicate that all patients with coronary disease, such as those with coronary stents, previous bypass surgery and even patients with earlier stages of coronary artery disease can benefit from treatment with beta-blockers.”(Source: Annals of Internal Medicine July 3 : Cleveland Clinic : August 2007)