Cardiac Patients Not Getting Needed Drugs

Heart patients without necessary therapy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Millions suffer some from some type of heart disease; from high cholesterol to more complicated heart issues. For many patients treatment is as easy as a simple daily medication.

Yet a recent study published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association revealed that millions of adults with peripheral artery disease are not receiving medications needed to reduce their risk of heart attack, stroke and death,

Much of the skipped recommended therapies included cholesterol and blood pressure-lowering medications. Peripheral artery disease is the result of atherosclerosis, or artery blockage in the legs from plaque. Those with the disease have a significantly increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke because it can affect the arteries supplying blood to the heart and brain.

Peripheral artery disease can be identified through a simple non-invasive screening called the ankle brachial index. The screening is a comparison between the blood pressure in an individual’s arm and the blood pressure in their ankle with a low reading indicating leg arteries might be narrowed, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

"Get checked by your doctor to identify heart disease."

Of 7.1 million with peripheral artery disease, study author Dr. Reena L. Pande, M.D.. a professor at Harvard Medical School, found that two out of three, or about 5 million, are not taking cholesterol-lowering medications. Almost three in four, or about 5.4 million, are not receiving angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers, which lower blood pressure.

Additionally, two in three, or about 4.5 million, are not taking aspirin to reduce the risk of heart attack. The study showed that taking two or more of these drugs was linked to a 65 percent decrease in deaths from all causes.

Common heart medicines include aspirin for thinning blood, cholesterol-lowering statins such as Pravachol (pravastatin) and Zocor (simvastatin) and hypertension drugs Benicar (olmesartan) and Lasix (furosemide.)

Researchers used the ankle brachial index as a screening tool  to identify whether people who have peripheral artery disease, but no known heart disease, would benefit from medications to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events.

Data from 7,458 adults was studied using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, to find out how many adults with symptoms were not taking drugs to lower their heart attack risk, and whether the medications would save lives. Researchers examined data from between 1999 and 2004.

Dr. Pande said the findings are observational and involved reviewing existing data. Larger trials are needed to validate the results and determine how best to provide treatments to lower heart risk. The study did not reveal why the patients were not receiving the needed medication.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 19, 2011
Last Updated:
June 21, 2011