Respiratory effect of beta-blocker eye drops in asthma: population-based study and meta-analysis of clinical trials

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Abstract

Aims

To measure the prevalence of beta-blocker eye drop prescribing and respiratory effect of ocular beta-blocker administration in people with asthma.

Methods

We measured the prevalence of ocular beta-blocker prescribing in people with asthma and ocular hypertension, and performed a nested case–control study (NCCS) measuring risk of moderate exacerbations (rescue steroids in primary care) and severe exacerbations (asthma hospitalization) using linked data from the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink. We then performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials evaluating changes in lung function following ocular beta-blocker administration in people with asthma.

Results

From 2000 to 2012, the prevalence of non-selective and selective beta-blocker eye drop prescribing in people with asthma and ocular hypertension fell from 23.0% to 13.4% and from 10.5% to 0.9% respectively. In the NCCS, the relative incidence (IRR) of moderate exacerbations increased significantly with acute non-selective beta-blocker eye drop exposure (IRR 4.83, 95% CI 1.56–14.94) but not with chronic exposure. In the meta-analysis, acute non-selective beta-blocker eye drop exposure caused significant mean falls in FEV1 of −10.9% (95% CI −14.9 to −6.9), and falls in FEV1 of ≥20% affecting one in three. Corresponding values for selective beta-blockers in people sensitive to ocular non-selective beta-blockers was −6.3% (95% CI −11.7 to −0.8), and a non-significant increase in falls in FEV1 of ≥20%.

Conclusion

Non-selective beta-blocker eye drops significantly affect lung function and increase asthma morbidity but are still frequently prescribed to people with asthma and ocular hypertension despite safer agents being available.

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