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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Minnesota: Study Finds Beta Blockers Ineffective in Stopping COPD Flare-ups

A new study co-led by University of Minnesota School of Public Health researchers recently tested the use of beta blocker medications — drugs commonly used to control high blood pressure and treat congestive heart failure — to prevent Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) flare-ups. Researchers stopped the study early after preliminary and overwhelming evidence showed the drugs were ineffective. 

The study, which was co-authored by professor, Dr. John Connett, appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. Connett served as the study’s principal investigator for its statistical and data coordinating center overseeing the design, conduct and ongoing data analysis of the trial.

Dr. Connett and Dr. Mark Dransfield from the University of Alabama partnered on this study to test the safety and effectiveness of beta blockers for treating COPD. The study was conducted using the most rigorous format: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial including 532 patients from 26 clinical centers across the country. The study plan was to evaluate the use of a widely used beta blocker, called metoprolol, on a randomly selected group of patients over a three-year period.

However, less than halfway through the study, its safety review board halted the trial when it became clear that the drug was not helping.

“First, we observed no beneficial effect of the beta blocker on the overall risk of exacerbations,” said Dr. Connett. “Second, there was strong evidence that using the beta blocker was associated with the occurrence of severe exacerbations requiring hospitalization.”

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