Why did my GP switch me to a different beta-blocker?

Beta blocker pills

I’ve taken atenolol to treat my high blood pressure and slightly fast heart rate for 20 years now, but recently my GP switched me to bisoprolol. Why is this?

Senior Cardiac Nurse Christopher Allen says:

Atenolol and bisoprolol are both beta-blockers and are used to help treat high blood pressure, angina and heart failure.

Atenolol is a much older drug and is now less often prescribed for cardiac patients. Bisoprolol was developed to be more cardio-specific than atenolol. In other words, it works specifically on the beta-receptors of your cardiovascular system (as opposed to beta-receptors found in other parts of the body, such as your lungs).

Bisoprolol is now the first-choice beta-blocker that’s prescribed for high blood pressure and angina, as well as for any heart rhythm disturbances, such as atrial fibrillation.

Ask if you’re not sure why you’re changing medication

When you’re on long-term medications, it’s important to have them regularly reviewed by your GP or specialist to make sure they’re still working effectively.

If you’ve been taking atenolol for a long time without any problems, your GP may prefer to keep you on it. But do ask for an explanation if you’re not sure why you’re staying on or changing to a particular medication.

Read more about beta-blockers and other types of heart medication at our Drug Cabinet section.

Christopher AllenMeet the expert

Christopher Allen helps manage the BHF’s genetic information service and has extensive specialist experience of working in coronary care.

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