Optimising the use of beta-adrenoceptor antagonists in coronary artery disease

Drugs. 2005;65(6):787-97. doi: 10.2165/00003495-200565060-00006.


beta-Adrenoceptor antagonists (beta-blockers) provide multiple benefits to patients with coronary artery disease. The 2001 American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology (AHA/ACC) guidelines for secondary prevention of myocardial infarction (MI) recommend initiating beta-adrenoceptor blockade in all post-MI patients and continuing therapy indefinitely. Atenolol and metoprolol have been shown to decrease vascular mortality in the acute-MI period. In the post-MI period timolol provided a 39% reduction in mortality in the Norwegian Multicenter Study group and propranolol was associated with a 26% reduction in mortality in BHAT (Beta-blocker Heart Attack Trial). beta-Adrenoceptor antagonist therapy results in reduction of myocardial oxygen demand and is therefore also effective for the treatment of angina pectoris. In CAST (Cardiac Arrhythmia Suppression Trial) beta-adrenoceptor antagonist therapy was associated with a significant reduction in arrhythmic death or cardiac arrest. In the post-MI amiodarone trials EMIAT (European Myocardial Infarct Amiodarone Trial) and CAMIAT (Canadian Amiodarone Myocardial Infarction Trial) there was a mortality benefit and decreased arrhythmic death in patients who received both amiodarone and beta-adrenoceptor antagonist therapy, compared with patients receiving amiodarone therapy alone. In the post-MI defibrillator (implantable cardioverter defibrillator [ICD]) trials, AVID (Antiarrhythmic Versus Implantable Defibrillator) and MUSTT (Multicenter Unsustained Tachycardia Trial), beta-adrenoceptor antagonist therapy was independently associated with improved overall survival. The exception was the ICD patients in MUSTT, and the benefit was attenuated in the amiodarone and ICD patients in AVID.AHA/ACC guidelines recommend the use of beta-adrenoceptor antagonists in all patients with symptomatic left ventricular dysfunction, based on several large, controlled heart failure trials. Extended-release metoprolol succinate reduced all-cause mortality by 34% in MERIT-HF (Metoprolol Controlled-Release/Extended-Release Randomized Intervention Trial in Heart Failure). Bisoprolol was associated with a 34% mortality benefit in CIBIS-II (Cardiac Insufficiency Bisoprolol Study II) and carvedilol was associated with a 35% mortality reduction in the COPERNICUS (Carvedilol Prospective Randomized Cumulative Survival) trial. beta-Adrenoceptor antagonists reduce perioperative mortality in patients undergoing cardiac as well as non-cardiac surgery; however, they remain underutilised. Contraindications to beta-adrenoceptor antagonist therapy include severe bradycardia, high-grade atrioventricular block, marked sinus node dysfunction and acute exacerbations of heart failure. Many of the perceived adverse effects of beta-adrenoceptor antagonists have not been substantiated by large clinical trials.beta-Adrenoceptor antagonists differ with regard to receptor selectivity, receptor affinity, lipophilicity and intrinsic sympathomimetic activity. Beneficial properties of beta-adrenoceptor antagonists may not always be extrapolated as a class effect, and patient selection and drug preparations should follow trial guidelines. The beneficial effects of beta-adrenoceptor antagonists are clearly proven in cardiac patients and those at risk for cardiac disease. They are indicated for heart failure and proven beneficial in patients undergoing cardiac and non-cardiac surgery. These benefits appear to be consistent across most patient subgroups. beta-Adrenoceptor antagonists are generally well tolerated, yet significant morbidity and mortality result from their continued underutilisation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / drug therapy*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta / metabolism*


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta