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GPs urged to consider falls risk when prescribing beta blockers

Prescribers should take falls risk in to account when prescribing beta blockers, warns a new study.

Prescribers should take falls risk in to account when prescribing beta blockers, warns a new study.

The study, looking at data from two prospective cohort studies, found that non-selective beta blockers – such as carvedilol and propranolol – were associated with a 22% increased risk of falls over a two-year period, compared to non-users.

Selective beta-blockers did not confer any risk of increased falls, compared to non-users.

The research, led by a team from the Netherlands and published by the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, looked at just over 10,000 patients taking beta blockers, all aged 55 or over.

The team suggested that fall risk needs to be taken into account when prescribing beta blockers to this age group.

The paper said: ‘Our study indicates an increased fall risk in older people during the use of non-selective beta blockers, contrary to selective beta blockers.

’Falls risk should be considered when prescribing a beta blocker in this age group, and the pros and cons for beta blockers classes should be taken into consideration.’

Br J Clin Pharmacol 2017; accessed 7th June

Readers' comments (3)

  • It pains me as a GP in England to see the awful struggle my colleagues are going through in Northern Ireland. It is a symptom of under-funding in general practice and is widespread, to a greater or lesser extent, in the UK as a whole. Although I don’t work in Northern Ireland, I write as someone who went to school in Belfast, is the son of a late GP and medical graduate of Queen's University Belfast, a cousin of a Lurgan GP and practice nurse and a friend of a GP, all in Northern Ireland. They tell me of the difficulties in recruitment and retention.

    For me, the vital role played by GPs is not being recognised, acknowledged, funded or rewarded. Most of what GPs do cannot be measured through targets such as the QOF. Rather, it is the huge workload that comes with being an advocate and carer for the frail and elderly, those with mental illness, the homeless and the many others who find themselves with significant health needs and present to a GP for help.

    The illness and suffering that many of our patients have is immeasurable and they do not 'fit' the guidelines and targets which make up a major part of the GP and primary care team’s workload. This is where Northern Ireland GPs, and indeed all UK GPs, are struggling most to deliver. This hugely-skilled workforce needs support and funding to save the essential service they provide.
    If the service GPs provide continues to be undervalued and underfunded, it will be to the detriment of our society and the ethos of the NHS with access at the point of need for all.

    One could argue that in England, there have been gestures of support through the GP 5 Year Forward View, however, this is not the case in Northern Ireland where I understand that the very worrying trend of GP practice closure is greater than that in England.

    As one colleague said to me, General Practice in Northern Ireland is “on its knees”. We must all be mindful to let everyone know about the importance of GPs, including our patients who do not wish to lose us and our policy makers, so that that those making decisions are aware of what is at stake.

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  • Average cost to see a GP in Southern Ireland is 46 euros (50% population reimbursed) and patients see them twice per year, average cost to see a GP in Northern Ireland is 0 pounds and patients see them eight times per year - similar health outcomes - which option is sustainable with an ever shrinking workforce for the whole UK, let alone Northern Irelend?

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  • Helpful, thank you.

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