Previous research suggested a potential link between drugs commonly prescribed for asthma and heart attacks. This much larger study examined over half a million records and found that there is unlikely to be a link, reassuring patients and GPs that this is a safe treatment for asthma.

Why was this work needed?

Beta-2-agonists are widely prescribed for asthma. Early research suggested that these drugs might lead to higher rates of heart disease, a major cause of heart attacks. Patients and their doctors need to know about the benefits and risks associated with the drugs that they use.

What happened?

Researchers examined the records of over 500,000 adults who were prescribed beta-2-agonists (commonly used for asthma) over a 14 year period and compared these with the records of people who were prescribed a different kind of asthma medication. They compared the rates of heart disease in the two groups to see whether taking beta-2-agonists is linked with an increased level of heart disease.

What were the benefits?

This research showed that a link between beta-2-agonists and heart disease is unlikely, reassuring patients and GPs that this is a safe treatment for asthma. Previous studies which had suggested that there may be a risk were based on much smaller numbers, so a particular benefit of this research was that it studied the effects of the drug in a large population, allowing for greater accuracy of the findings and a high level of confidence in the result.

What type of data was involved?

The data for this work came from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD).

The data used by researchers was de-personalised.

Who funded and collaborated on this work?

This study was funded by AstraZeneca.

Where can I go for more information?

The pattern of risk of myocardial infarction in patients taking asthma medication