Use of β-blockers during immunotherapy for Hymenoptera venom allergy

Medical Department, Spital Bern Ziegler, Switzerland.
Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (Impact Factor: 11.25). 03/2005; 115(3):606-610. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2004.11.012

ABSTRACT Beta-blockers may aggravate anaphylactic reactions and interfere with treatment. There is therefore concern about their use in patients who have a history of anaphylaxis or are on allergen immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is the best available treatment for prevention of life-threatening anaphylaxis to Hymenoptera stings, which is often observed in elderly patients who have cardiovascular disease and therefore are on beta-blocker treatment.
To analyze the risk of beta-blocker treatment during venom immunotherapy.
We screened all 1682 patients with Hymenoptera venom allergy seen during a period of 34 months for immunotherapy, cardiovascular disease, and treatment with beta-blockers.
Of the 1389 patients in whom immunotherapy was recommended, 11.2% had cardiovascular disease, and 44 of these were on beta-blockers before immunotherapy. In 31 of those, the drug was replaced before starting treatment. In 3 with coronary heart disease and 1 with severe ventricular arrhythmia, the drug was continued throughout immunotherapy. In 9, it was reintroduced after reaching the maintenance dose. In an additional 12 patients, beta-blockers were newly started during immunotherapy. Of 25 patients on beta-blockers during immunotherapy, 3 (12%) developed allergic side effects, compared with 23 (16.7%) of 117 with cardiovascular disease but without beta-blockers. Systemic allergic symptoms after re-exposure by sting challenge or field sting were observed in 1 of 7 (14.3%) with and 4 of 29 (13.8%) without beta-blockade. No severe reactions to treatment or sting reexposure were observed in patients with beta-blockade.
Combination of beta-blockers with venom immunotherapy may be indicated in heavily exposed patients with severe cardiovascular disease.

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