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Beta-Blocker Eye Drops Can Cause Serious Adverse Reactions, Public Citizen Reveals on WorstPills.org Web Site

Nov. 1, 2006

Beta-Blocker Eye Drops Can Cause Serious Adverse Reactions, Public Citizen Reveals on WorstPills.org Web Site

“Worst Pills, Best Pills” Readers Also Receive Life-Saving Warnings About Dangerous Drugs Before They Are Removed From the Market

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Beta-blocker eye drops, used for treatment of blindness-causing glaucoma, may cause significant adverse effects such as death, heart attack, serious drops in blood pressure, fainting spells and other complications, Public Citizen writes in a new November posting on its WorstPills.org Web site. The consumer advocacy organization cited information published in the September 2 issue of The Lancet.

Glaucoma causes elevated pressure in the eyes which can lead to blindness. Beta-blockers, however, are very effective at treating the elevated pressure and can be taken orally or through eye drops. Though prescribed often, patients should not assume that beta-blocker eye drops are universally safe.

Beta-blocker eye drops have been reported as one of the most common causes of falls in elderly glaucoma patients due to their tendency to cause drops in blood pressure. Beta-blocker eye drops cause problems that are not associated with oral beta-blockers because of the way in which they are absorbed. The oral beta-blockers are broken down by the liver before distribution to the rest of the body, whereas beta-blocker eye drops enter the nasolacrimal canal and bypass the liver to enter the blood stream undiluted. The drug, when administered through eye drops, is more highly concentrated and more likely to cause complications.

“Patients who use beta-blocker eye drops to combat the increased eye pressure from glaucoma should make sure that they are using the lowest possible dose,” said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. “As with any drug, consumers who experience adverse effects should immediately contact their physician.”

The November updates to the WorstPills.org Web site also contain information about why consumers should be aware of hundreds of tendon ruptures associated with the use of fluoroquinolone antibiotics such as Cipro, and why the Food and Drug Administration’s warnings on ADHD stimulants are not strong enough.

Worst Pills, Best Pills is a monthly newsletter available in print and electronic formats through Public Citizen’s Web site, www.WorstPills.org. The article about beta-blocker eye drops will be available free on the site for the next seven days. The site has other searchable information about the uses, risks and adverse effects associated with prescription medications, including all the information contained in Public Citizen’s best-selling book, Worst Pills, Best Pills.

Worst Pills is an unbiased analysis of information from a variety of sources, including well-regarded medical journals and unpublished data obtained from the FDA that allow Public Citizen to sound the alarm about potentially dangerous drugs long before they are banned by the federal government. For example, Public Citizen warned consumers about the dangers of Vioxx, ephedra, Baycol and Propulsid years before they were pulled from the market.