BACKGROUND Current American and European guidelines emphasize the importance of rate-control treatments in treating atrial fibrillation with a Class I recommendation, although data on the survival benefits of rate control are lacking. The goal of the present study was to investigate whether patients receiving rate-control drugs had a better prognosis compared with those without rate-control treatment. METHODS AND RESULTS This study used the National Health Insurance Research Database in Taiwan. There were 43 879, 18 466, and 38 898 patients with atrial fibrillation enrolled in the groups receiving β-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and digoxin, respectively. The reference group consisted of 168 678 subjects who did not receive any rate-control drug. The clinical end point was all-cause mortality. During a follow-up of 4.9±3.7 years, mortality occurred in 88 263 patients (32.7%). After adjustment for baseline differences, the risk of mortality was lower in patients receiving β-blockers (adjusted hazard ratio=0.76; 95% confidence interval=0.74-0.78) and calcium channel blockers (adjusted hazard ratio=0.93; 95% confidence interval=0.90-0.96) compared with those who did not receive rate-control medications. On the contrary, the digoxin group had a higher risk of mortality with an adjusted hazard ratio of 1.12 (95% confidence interval=1.10-1.14). The results were observed consistently in subgroup analyses and among the cohorts after propensity matching. CONCLUSIONS In this nationwide atrial fibrillation cohort, the risk of mortality was lower for patients receiving rate-control treatment with β-blockers or calcium channel blockers, and the use of β-blockers was associated with the largest risk reduction. Digoxin use was associated with greater mortality. Prospective, randomized trials are necessary to confirm these findings.
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