Researchers have found a common heart disease medication could also treat a type of lung disease.
A study by the Cleveland Clinic discovered that beta blockers had a positive effect on pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).
The condition is caused by high blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries – which carry deoxygenated blood from the right ventricle to the lungs.
This can lead to right-sided heart failure and even death within five to seven years of people being diagnosed.
In the UK it affects 6,500 people, according to the British Heart Foundation.
Current treatments target the pulmonary vessels, rather than heart dysfunction.
However, researchers have found beta blockers may be more effective.
They cause the heart to beat more slowly with less force and stress.
“There is a critical need for new therapies to support right ventricular function in pulmonary hypertension,” said Serpil C Erzurum, lead study author from the Cleveland Clinic.
“While treatments with beta blockers such as carvedilol are standard therapy in patients with left-sided heart failure, successful therapies in right-sided heart failure and PAH have lagged behind.
“Longer-term studies are needed but our initial analysis shows that carvedilol may also benefit patients with PAH, who currently have few available treatment options.”
In the study, researchers looked at a group of 30 patients with PAH.
They found that beta blockers lowered heart rate, improved heart rate recovery from exercise, and did not worsen heart failure or lead to airflow deterioration.
Previously there had been concerns that beta blockers may decrease functional lung capacity.
“There is good reason to consider beta blockers for the right ventricular failure in PAH,” said W.H. Wilson Tang, study co-author from the Cleveland Clinic.
“The fact that beta blockers were well-tolerated and effective in lowering heart rates thereby improving the heart efficiency is unto itself a key observation, since doctors have been cautioned against using them in this setting for safety concerns.
“This study provides important new data that advances our knowledge of using this class of drugs in this chronic and life-threatening lung-associated vascular disease.”