Topical b-Blockers May Affect Airways Function in Elderly Patients

Published Online: Saturday, February 1, 2003

The use of topical b-blockers for the treatment of glaucoma is associated with an increased risk of airways obstruction in elderly patients, according to a report in the British Medical Journal. Researchers matched people who had used topical b-blockers with unexposed people by age and sex. An estimated 55 patients would need to be treated to cause 1 case of airways obstruction each year.

Ophthalmologists, general practitioners, physicians, and pharmacists need to be aware of the possibility of airways obstruction in patients taking topical b-blockers for glaucoma, the researchers noted. b-blockers should be discontinued immediately when a patient develops airways obstruction, and the ophthalmologist should be informed, the researchers added.

A repeat prescription that includes topical b-blockers and drugs for asthma should automatically sound an alarm, the authors concluded.

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