Skip to Main Content

HelixTalk Episode #131 - Come One, Come All: Know Everything about Beta-blockers!

Date posted: June 1, 2021, 6:00 am

In this episode, we will review the beta-blocker drug class. We discuss their pharmacology, pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic parameters, evidence-based use, efficacy, and safety considerations.


Key Concepts

  1. Various beta-blockers are divided into four main subtypes: non-selective, B1-selective, beta-blockers with alpha 1 antagonistic activity, and beta-blockers with intrinsic sympathomimetic activity (ISA). These subtypes govern their place in therapy, efficacy, and adverse effects.
  2. With regards to dosing, “start low and go slow”. The antihypertensive effect is dose-specific, but heart failure therapy requires a GDMT dosing approach to initiate and reach a certain target dose. Do not initiate as a new agent in acutely decompensated heart failure and definitely do not abruptly stop the therapy -- a taper over 1-2 weeks is required.
  3. Beta blockers are not first-line antihypertensives; however, they should be used in patients with compelling indications, such as systolic heart failure and post-MI. Other uses include angina, atrial fibrillation, migraine, tremors, and more.
  4. Beta blockers are associated with a number of adverse effects including bradycardia, bronchoconstriction, weight gain, dyslipidemia, hyperkalemia, and masking of hypoglycemia. More severe adverse effects include heart block, exacerbation of heart failure, and morbidity/mortality from acute withdrawal.