Beta-blockers could reduce death among those with diabetes and hypoglycaemia

A type of drug commonly used to treat high blood pressure could reduce the risk of death among those with type 2 diabetes and a related complication.

A research team from the Leicester Diabetes Centre wanted to investigate how taking beta-blockers might impact those who experience hypoglycaemia.

Also known as a hypo, the condition develops when sugar levels in the blood drops too low in people with diabetes, particularly in those who use insulin to control the condition.

Researcher Dr Francesco Zaccardi, who led the trial, said: “We wanted to look into whether there’s a link between a specific class of beta-blocker and mortality among those with diabetes who experience hypoglycaemia.”

The research involved more than 13,000 people who all had insulin-treated diabetes.

Over the course of the trial, the team recorded hypoglycaemic episodes and any cardiovascular events among those who took different classes of beta-blockers.

Beta-blockers can be selective or non-selective. Selective beta-blockers mostly affect the heart, while non-selective ones affect other parts of the body.

Dr Zaccardi added: “We found that beta1-selective beta-blockers, used to treat hypertension, chronic stable angina, heart failure and heart attacks, may potentially reduce the risk of death in those who experienced hypoglycaemia.”

“However, we issue our conclusions with caution and we urge people not to suddenly stop taking beta-blockers because they could be in danger of making their health condition worse. We would always recommend seeking the advice of a doctor or healthcare professional before changing or stopping any type of medication.”

Professor Kamlesh Khunti, who is Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine at the University of Leicester and is also a Co-Director at the Leicester Diabetes Centre, said: “The increasing prevalence of aging and people who have diabetes and other serious health conditions has led to global increasing trends of hypoglycaemia and related deaths.”

“It’s because of these worrying patterns that we wanted to investigate different approaches in a bid to reduce the burden of hypoglycaemia-related death.”

“Although our findings are interesting after finding a significant signal, the take home message is that more work needs to be done before we recommend beta1-selective beta-blockers should be prescribed to people who suffer from frequent hypoglycaemic episodes in a bid to reduce their risk of death and cardiovascular events.”

The Leicester Diabetes Centre is a partnership and collaboration between Leicester’s Hospitals and the University of Leicester.