Sunday Life

**I am including this article because I myself know ppl who take this drug

Cardiac tablets warning

By Ciaran McGuigan
14 November 2004

A drug taken daily by more than 200,000 people in Ulster has been branded "ineffective", after a four-and-a-half year study by researchers.

The astonishing findings - published in respected medical journal, The Lancet - cast a major question mark over the continued use of Atenolol.

But Sunday Life medical columnist, Dr Sarah Brewer, said yesterday she was "surprised" by the research.

Atenolol is prescribed to treat high blood pressure and prevent angina and heart attacks.

The study, carried out by experts at Umea University in Sweden, found that, while Atenolol reduced blood pressure, it was no better than inactive "dummy" drugs at preventing heart attacks or death.

Compared with other anti-hypertensive drugs, Atenolol was associated with "significantly higher" rates of mortality, said researchers.

They collected data from four studies, involving more than 8,000 patients, that compared the drug with a placebo, or no treatment.

Results from a further five studies, comparing 17,671 patients, which matched Atenolol against other blood pressure-lowering drugs, were also analysed.

The study concluded: "Our results cast doubts on Atenolol as a suitable drug for hypertensive patients."

One GP working in Belfast told Sunday Life: "Doctors are now going to have to look hard at whether we continue to prescribe this drug.

"It is used so widely in Northern Ireland, because we have one of the highest rates of heart disease in Europe."

But patients are advised NOT to stop taking Atenolol, without consulting their doctor.

Otherwise, they could get a reflex rise in blood pressure.

Dr Brewer said yesterday: "I must say, I'm surprised at the findings of this study.

"Atenolol is widely used and well-respected, and a lot of patients find it very helpful.

"You can, occasionally, find a trial that goes against all the previous research, and this would appear to the case here.

"Obviously, further investigation is required, but I think it's premature to conclude that Atenolol is ineffective."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health at Stormont said the drug had been licensed for more than 20 years.

During that time, a large body of research data had, she said, accumulated on its safety and efficiency in clinical practice here.

The spokeswoman added: "Following this assessment, the CSM (Committee on Safety of Medicines) will decide if there is a need to notify doctors and pharmacists of any change in risk."

cmcguigan@belfast telegraph.co.uk

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