Asthma sufferers who use beta-agonist inhalers run twice the risk of dying from a heart condition than those using other treatments.
The death rate from heart failure was greatest among those taking theophylline, or one of the beta-agonists such as albuterol and fenoterol. But those who take their medication by metered dose inhalers have no increased risk of dying from heart failure.
Canadian researchers examined the records of 12,301 asthma patients registered in Saskatchewan. They found that sufferers taking one of the drugs were 2.7 times more likely to suffer a heart failure.
However, they noted that the 30 asthma sufferers who died already had a history of heart problems.
They recommend that people with a heart condition, or at high risk of developing the disease, should avoid taking beta-agonists or theophylline (Am J Respir Crit Care Med, 1996; 154: 1598-602).
For more information, see the WDDTY Guide to Asthma & Eczema, and WDDTY vol 3, no 8.