The effect is critically reviewed of chronic administration of beta-adrenoreceptor antagonists on morbidity and mortality in angina pectoris and myocardial infarction. There is inconclusive evidence that the abrupt cessation of therapy with these agents may increase morbidity and mortality in angina pectoris. The type of anginal patient in which this may occur is not yet defined and neither is the mechanism. There is no evidence that beta-antagonists prolong the life of anginal patients. In the acute phase of experimental myocardial infarction, these drugs reduce mortality but do not do so in man. There is increasing evidence that they prolong life if administered to patients surviving the acute phase of myocardial infarction. The need for further studies is discussed.
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