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Beta-Blockers Linked to Premature Death in Dialysis Patients

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A new study published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology found that dialysis patients who take beta-blockers that can be easily removed from the blood through dialysis may be at an increased risk of premature death compared with patients whose heart medications are more difficult to remove.

A group of drugs known as beta-blockers lower the risk of premature death in heart patients not on dialysis, but the medications – used to treat angina, reduce high blood pressure and control heart rhythm – increase the risk of premature death in dialysis patients. Experts say the filtering effects of dialysis remove the beta-blockers from circulation, leaving patients unable to experience their full benefit, according to

For the study, Matthew Weir MD, FRCPC, MSc (Western University, in Ontario, Canada) and his colleagues analyzed health information from patients in Canada who had been prescribed a beta-blocker that is easily filtered from circulation via dialysis. The high dialyzability group included 3,294 patients initiating dialysis with atenolol, acebutolol, or metoprolol. The low dialyzability group included 3,294 patients initiating dialysis with bisoprolol or propranolol. The high dialyzability group – those prescribed a beta-blocker that is easily removed from circulation during dialysis – was found to have a 1.4-increased risk of dying within 180 days. No increase in the risk of premature death was found in an additional analysis of 27,000 patients who were taking a beta-blocker but were not undergoing dialysis. The findings suggest that the presence of dialysis was a significant factor in the relationship between bisoprolol/propranolol beta blockers and lower risk of premature death, reported.

“Although we can’t draw causal relationships from our observational study, we did see the relationship that we hypothesized: the risk of death was higher in patients whose beta blocker was readily removed from their circulation by hemodialysis,” wrote Dr. Weir. “Changing prescriptions from an easily-removed drug to a difficult-to-remove drug might be a simple way to lower the risk of premature death for people receiving hemodialysis.”

Beta-blockers are typically prescribed to patients undergoing hemodialysis to lower the risk of sudden cardiac death. Few randomized controlled trials of beta-blockers have been carried out on patients actually undergoing dialysis, according to

The study did not look at the effects of the drug carvedilol, which is considered an important beta-blocker for patients undergoing dialysis. It was not included in the study because the study’s jurisdiction restricted the researchers’ access to the medication, reported.

In 2008, it came to light that beta-blockers were linked to about 800,000 deaths worldwide, and that patients taking the medications are one-third more likely to die within a month of surgery and twice as likely to suffer a stroke. Researchers found that for every 1,000 patients undergoing non-cardiac surgery, beta-blockers would prevent 15 from having a heart attack; however, at least eight would die and five would suffer a stroke. The drugs would also cause abnormally low blood pressure in over half of those patients, and four in 10 would suffer an abnormally slow heartbeat. disclaimer: This article: Beta-Blockers Linked to Premature Death in Dialysis Patients was posted on Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 at 4:35 pm at and is filed under Defective Drug Lawsuits.

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