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In an article appearing in Science, Author Gretchen Vogel writes that an article published and subsequently withdrawn from the European Heart Journal (EHJ), accused Dutch researcher Don Poldermans of publishing information that may have led to the deaths of 800,000 people. Poldermans led a trial “examining whether β-blocker drugs can protect patients undergoing surgery that doesn’t directly involve the heart; those studies helped shape guidelines adopted in 2009 by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) that recommended using the drugs.” The study performed by Poldermans focused on giving β blockers to heart patients undergoing non-cardiac surgery. His study, called DECREASE I, identified that patients on a month-long β blocker regiment were far less likely to die from cardiac causes as compared to patients not on β blockers. The study’s results “moved opinion toward starting β-blocker therapy in patients scheduled to have high-risk surgery,” however, later tests found that the β blockers had the opposite result on patients’ survival, and called into question the validity of data. A study, which excluded Poldermans’s data, on the use of β blockers for non-cardiac surgeries “concluded that patients who received the drugs had a 27% increased risk of dying—an increase that led to their published estimate of 800,000 additional deaths.” However, Poldermans’s variables, such as time between receiving β blockers and undergoing surgery, need to be investigated further before definitive claims can be made on the benefits or harms of such a practice.
Find the full text of the article here: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/343/6170/473.full