Objective To clarify whether any particular β blocker is superior in patients with heart failure and reduced ejection fraction or whether the benefits of these agents are mainly due to a class effect.
Design Systematic review and network meta-analysis of efficacy of different β blockers in heart failure.
Data sources CINAHL(1982-2011), Cochrane Collaboration Central Register of Controlled Trials (-2011), Embase (1980-2011), Medline/PubMed (1966-2011), and Web of Science (1965-2011).
Study selection Randomized trials comparing β blockers with other β blockers or other treatments.
Data extraction The primary endpoint was all cause death at the longest available follow-up, assessed with odds ratios and Bayesian random effect 95% credible intervals, with independent extraction by observers.
Results 21 trials were included, focusing on atenolol, bisoprolol, bucindolol, carvedilol, metoprolol, and nebivolol. As expected, in the overall analysis, β blockers provided credible mortality benefits in comparison with placebo or standard treatment after a median of 12 months (odds ratio 0.69, 0.56 to 0.80). However, no obvious differences were found when comparing the different β blockers head to head for the risk of death, sudden cardiac death, death due to pump failure, or drug discontinuation. Accordingly, improvements in left ventricular ejection fraction were also similar irrespective of the individual study drug.
Conclusion The benefits of β blockers in patients with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction seem to be mainly due to a class effect, as no statistical evidence from current trials supports the superiority of any single agent over the others.