Beta Blockers: The Problem Drug Is Dangerous

Beta Blockers Help No One, Harm Many, and Should Be Banned

In one previous post, I was screaming, and in another, I was tearing my hair out. In this one I am doing both.

There is a handy web site called www.theNNT.com. NNT means Number Needed to Treat. For example, if 200 need to take a drug so that 1 might avoid a heart attack, the NNT is 200.  If the Beta Blocker
drug that prevents heart attacks does not harm, then ‘why not?’ Statins have an NNT of about 300. However, they do harm to about 1 in 10, but (at least in the eyes of the pharmaceutical industry) that harm is less than the benefit. In any case, the NNH, or Number Needed to Harm, for statins is 10. (But I am not writing this post to rail once more about statins, but do promise endless future posts on this till statins go away.)

An ideal drug has an NNT of 1 – everyone benefits, and an NNH that is very high, meaning millions can take it without harm. Antibiotics might fall into this category.

At the other end of the spectrum would be what might best be called an anti-drug.  Cyanide would fall into this category, with no known benefit and an NNH of 1.

Beta-blockers are a somewhat less toxic anti-drug. Again from the NNT.com, we have an NNT of, basically, infinity, meaning no one is helped. That’s right. A commonly prescribed drug has no demonstrable benefit. However, the Number Needed to Harm is 91. And the harm? Cardiogenic shock. If you understand what beta-blockers do, this is no surprise. (If you don’t, we are about to get to it.)  Cardiogenic shock is not a trivial side effect, it is life threatening. Oh, and for good measure, they increase your risk of diabetes, depression, erectile dysfunction, poor sleep. I try to avoid sarcasm but…”what a great drug!”

Beta-blockers slow the heart. They do this by blocking beta-receptors, which relaxes the heart muscles and slows them down. Why do this? Look at blood pressure as the result of a pump (the heart) pushing blood through restricted pipes (the blood vessels). If the blood pressure is high, why not simply slow the heart down. That is what beta-blockers do. But this begs the question: Why is the pressure high? The pressure is high because the arteries are clogged and the heart needs to work that hard to get enough blood to essential organs, such as the brain. High blood pressure is a sign of clogged arteries. The disease is clogged arteries (atherosclerosis) and the cure is unclogging them.

Shutting down the pump is NOT the cure. The disease is still there, but by shutting down the pump with beta-blockers, we have compounded matters by reducing blood supply. This is a lose-lose if there ever was one.

There is research after research on beta-blockers which never shows a benefit, and frequently shows harm. See this from the prestigious Lancet and this, from the equally prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Instead of the usual circumspection these journals are famous for, they are quite blunt in their assessment of the value of beta-blockers.

However, the drug industry is up to the usual, dicing and slicing. Will it work after a heart attack, or if given intravenously, etc. (Dicing and Slicing is explained in Understanding Medical Research – Part 1 – Spotting Doubtful Research.)

It takes almost no effort to figure out that this drug is worse than useless. But you no doubt think that after such a shellacking in the top journals, such a drug would only be used in fringe sorts of cases. And there are a few; serious uses are out there but account for less than 1% of the actual use of the drug.

This is the part that makes me scream and tear my hair out. There are some tens of millions of people taking these drugs. Still. After all this negative research, it’s still ‘standard’ treatment for hypertension, and hypertension is rampant. Some reports think at least 800,000 people have been killed by this drug. How can we, the medical profession, be doing this?

The only ‘drug’ that is completely safe and effective for hypertension is Quantitative Medicine. Hypertension is not natural. Hunter-gatherers don’t get it. Their blood pressure does not even rise with age. Hypertension is caused by lifestyle choices and can be cured the same way. A series of posts on hypertension and atherosclerosis is coming soon. If you are taking beta-blockers, make your doc explain the benefit, and why the Lancet and JAMA articles don’t apply in your case.

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