Drug proven to benefit heart attack victims vastly underused

ORLANDO, FLA. - After analyzing data of more than 56,000 U.S. patients who arrive at emergency rooms with heart attack symptoms, researchers from a Duke University Medical Center-led patient registry have found that almost two out of three patients did not receive a class of clot-inhibiting drugs within the first 24 hours of symptoms, despite the fact that clinical trials that have proven that the drugs save lives.

The drugs in question, known as glycoprotein (GP) IIb/IIIa inhibitors, are agents that block receptors on blood platelets preventing them from forming clots. Large multi-center trials have proven the inhibitors' effectiveness in preventing deaths in patients with chest pain if administered within 24 hours of being seen in the hospital.

The scientists' analysis of current hospital practices in the U.S. also revealed that other proven drug therapies, as well as the early treatment by a cardiologist and the aggressive use of invasive procedures such as angioplasty, are also underutilized. Improving the usage of all these evidence-based therapies can help reduce the mortality rates for these patients, the researchers said.

The results of the current analysis were presented today by James Hoekstra, M.D., chairman of the department of emergency medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, N.C., at the 76th annual scientific session of the American Heart Association.

"Acting quickly with therapies that have been shown to be effective can save lives," Hoekstra said. "The ultimate goal for improving patient outcome is to use protocol-driven care. If we stick with the guidelines and utilize all the proven therapies within the first 24 hours, our patients will do better."

For their analysis, the Duke team consulted the nationwide quality improvement initiative dubbed CRUSADE (Can Rapid Risk Stratification of Unstable Angina Patients Suppress Adverse Outcomes with Early Implementation of the ACC and AHA

Contact: Richard Merritt
Duke University Medical Center

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