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Beta-blockers for tenacious saliva: a case report
  1. Myles J. Woodman1 and
  2. Paul Howard2,3
  1. 1Department of General Medicine, St Mary's Hospital, Isle of Wight NHS Trust, Newport, Isle of Wight, UK
  2. 2Mountbatten Hospice, Newport, Isle of Wight, UK
  3. 3Palliative Care Team, St Mary's Hospital, Isle of Wight NHS Trust, Newport, Isle of Wight, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Paul Howard, Mountbatten Hospice, Newport, Isle of Wight, UK; paul.howard1{at}


This case report describes the care of a 75-year-old gentleman with metastatic head and neck cancer who was highly symptomatic with intractable tenacious oropharyngeal secretions. The patient reported subjective benefit from oral atenolol. A literature review was undertaken and identified no previous studies on the use of β-blockers for secretions in malignant disease, although some anecdotal evidence for their use in motor neuron disease. The proposed underlying mechanism is that β1-blockade reduced the protein content of salivary secretions, hence reducing its viscosity. Further studies of both the role of β-adrenoreceptors in the control of secretion viscosity and the potential role of β-blockers in alleviating symptomatic tenacious secretions are warranted.

  • Drug administration
  • Head and neck
  • Neurological conditions

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  • Contributors MJW conducted the literature review and drafted the original manuscript. PH reviewed and contributed to the manuscript and obtained informed consent for publication from the patient’s family.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.