Despite the fact that doctors know the power of a common heart medication in reducing the risk of heart attacks and heart failure, many patients do not take the medications. Research shows the use of beta-blocker medication after a heart attack can reduce the risk of early death by 20 percent. However, many patients fear side effects such as depression, fatigue and sexual dysfunction and, therefore, do not take the drugs. A new study finds there is a gap in the information available.
Researchers from Yale University and the University of Alabama report patients and doctors consider the side effects to be numerous, but in the past the research didn't support those beliefs. In a new study, the researchers worked to determine the true side effects of beta-blockers. Doctors reviewed files of 35,000 patients in 15 clinical trials. They found no increased risk in depression but say there was a very small increase in fatigue and sexual dysfunction.
The researchers conclude that the conventional wisdom that beta blocker therapy is associated with substantial risks of depressive symptoms, fatigue and sexual dysfunction is not supported from data from clinical trials. The risks of these adverse effects should be put in the context of these medications. In the end, the investigators urge doctors to prescribe beta-blockers when necessary and to monitor patients for the side effects.