• Are Big Pharma’s Drugs Making Us All Go Blind?

    Posted June 7, 2014: by Bill Sardi

    Big Pharma’s blood pressure and angina drugs have now been linked with dramatically increased rates of retinal disease and subsequent blindness.  Many thousands of Medicare-age patients may be suffering from drug-induced vision loss.

    The primary classes of drugs involved are vasodilators like nitroglycerin used to widen blood vessels among patients with chest pain (angina); and beta blockers that slow the heart to control blood pressure.  Nitroglycerin increases the risk for early-stage macular degeneration while beta blockers increase risk for the fast-progressive and sight-threatening form of macular degeneration.

    Researchers involved in the study, published online in Ophthalmology — the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, provide details in this sobering report.  [Ophthalmology April 11, 2014]

    Angina medications (vasodilators) like nitroglycerin increase the risk for early-stage macular degeneration from 8.2% to 19.1% among senior Americans, a 72% increase.  Beta blockers, frequently used to control blood pressure and lower elevated fluid pressure in the eyes (glaucoma) increased the risk for the vision-threatening form of retinal disease known as neovascular macular degeneration.  This is a condition where new blood vessels invade the visual center of the eye (macula) in an attempt to deliver more blood to an oxygen-starved retina.  The risk for this sight-threatening form of eye disease increased from 0.5% to 1.2%, a 71% increase when beta blockers were used. [American Academy Ophthalmology May 28, 2014]

    Widespread use of beta blockers and vasodilators

    About 70% of America’s senior adults are taking cardiovascular drugs such as these.  [Bloomberg BusinessWeek May 14, 2014]   An estimated 20 million Americans take beta blockers daily. [Health Hub Nov 14, 2012]  Beta blockers are better known by their trade names:  Tenormin (atenolol), Coreg (carvedilol), Lopressor/ Toprol (metaprolol), Inderal (propranolol).   There are more than 4 million prescriptions for nitroglycerin written annually in the US under various brand names.

    What is even more disturbing is that beta blocker use has been called into question since 2012 when a large study [Journal American Medical Assn. Oct 3, 2012] showed they do not appear to be of any benefit in patients with coronary artery disease who have not had a heart attack or among patients who have had a heart attack more than a year ago. [Medscape Oct 2, 2012]

    Beta blockers slow the heart by about 12 beats per minute but this results in lethargy, impotence in males, less blood supply to the brain and eyes and increases the risk for breathing problems.

    Alternatives to drugs

    There are natural and safer alternatives to these drugs.

    Fish oil (less than 1000 milligrams) slows the heart by about 5 beats per minute without producing any of these side effects. [American Journal Cardiology April 15, 2006]

    Fresh crushed garlic or allicin-producing garlic pills widen blood vessels via garlic’s ability to transiently produce minute amounts of hydrogen sulfide and nitric oxide gases within arteries.  [European Journal Pharmaceutical Science Jan 23, 2013; Nutrition Research Feb 2014]

    The red wine molecule resveratrol, which is available as a dietary supplement (sans alcohol) also dilates blood vessels effectively.  [Annals New York Academy Science July 2013]

    Researchers stated they will look to future studies to confirm these initial findings before they ring the alarm bell.  But it took 20 years to collect the data just published so further confirmation may be decades away.

    It will be interesting to see whether ophthalmologists will now screen their macular degeneration patients being treated by direct needle injection into the eyes with drugs (Lucentis, Avastin) that inhibit abnormal blood vessel formation for beta blocker use.  It appears a bulletin should be forthcoming that all patients with neovascular (wet) macular degeneration be warned away from beta blockers.

    Americans love their drugs.  In a survey one in ten Americans has taken five or more prescription drugs in the last month.  [WebMD May 14, 2014]
 – ©2014 Bill Sardi, Knowledge of Health, Inc.


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