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What is the best beta-blocker for systolic heart failure?

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EVIDENCE-BASED ANSWER:

Three beta-blockers—carvedilol, metoprolol succinate, and bisoprolol—reduce mortality equally (by about 30% over one year) in patients with Class III or IV systolic heart failure. Insufficient evidence exists comparing equipotent doses of these medications head-to-head to recommend any one over the others (strength of recommendation [SOR]: A, systematic review/meta-analysis).

EVIDENCE SUMMARY

A 2013 network meta-analysis compared beta-blockers with placebo or standard treatment by analyzing 21 randomized trials with a total of 23,122 patients.1 Investigators found that beta-blockers as a class significantly reduced mortality after a median of 12 months (odds ratio=0.71, 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.64-0.80; number needed to treat [NNT]=23).

They also compared atenolol, bisoprolol, bucindolol, carvedilol, metoprolol, and nebivolol with each other and found no significant difference in risk of death, sudden cardiac death, death resulting from pump failure, or tolerability.

Three drugs are more effective and tolerable than others

A 2013 stratified subset meta-analysis used data from landmark randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that evaluated beta-blockers vs placebo in patients with systolic heart failure to compare metoprolol succinate (MERIT-HF) vs placebo with bisoprolol (CIBIS-II), carvedilol (COPERNICUS), and nebivolol (SENIORS-SHF) vs placebo (TABLE).2

Evidence-based answers from the Family Physicians Inquiries Network

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