Respiratory effect of beta-blockers in people with asthma and cardiovascular disease: population based nested case control study
Cardiovascular disease is a common comorbidity in people with asthma. However, safety concerns have caused heterogeneity in clinical guideline recommendations over the use of cardioselective beta-blockers in people with asthma and cardiovascular disease, partly because risk in the general population has been poorly quantified. To measure the risk of asthma exacerbations with beta-blockers prescribed to a general population with asthma and cardiovascular disease.
Linked data from the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink was used to perform nested case-control studies among people with asthma and cardiovascular disease matched on age, sex and calendar time. Adjusted incidence rate ratios (IRR) were calculated for the association between oral beta-blocker use and moderate asthma exacerbations (rescue oral steroids) or severe asthma exacerbations (hospitalisation or death) using conditional logistic regression.
The cohort consisted of 35,502 people identified with active asthma and cardiovascular disease, of which 14.1% and 1.2% were prescribed cardioselective and non-selective beta-blockers, respectively, during follow-up. Cardioselective beta-blocker use was not associated with a significantly increased risk of moderate or severe asthma exacerbations. Consistent results were obtained following sensitivity analyses and a self-controlled case series approach. In contrast, non-selective beta-blockers were associated with a significantly increased risk of moderate asthma exacerbations when initiated at low to moderate doses (IRR 5.16, 95% CI 1.83-14.54, P = 0.002), and both moderate and severe exacerbations when prescribed chronically at high dose (IRR 2.68, 95% CI 1.08-6.64, P = 0.033 and IRR 12.11, 95% CI 1.02-144.11, P = 0.048, respectively).
Cardioselective beta-blockers prescribed to people with asthma and cardiovascular disease were not associated with a significantly increased risk of moderate or severe asthma exacerbations, in contrast to non-selective beta-blockers, suggesting they may have a favourable benefit-risk balance if strongly indicated.