A new study from the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center sheds some light on this problem by looking at reasons why heart attack and angina patients don't take four key drugs known to cut their symptoms and risk of death.
The study, presented today at the Annual Scientific Session of the American College of Cardiology, finds forgetfulness, carelessness and side effects all play a role.
Even among patients whose doctors are taking part in a program aimed at optimizing the quality of heart care as these U-M patients were about half reported some problems sticking to their drug regimens six months after they left the hospital.
"It's crucial that we determine why patients aren't adhering to their medications, because we know that taking these particular four drugs can do so much for them," says senior author Kim A. Eagle, M.D., clinical director of the U-M Cardiovascular Center. "It appears that we need to find better ways of helping patients remember to take their pills, so they and our health care system can get the best result."
The study involved 154 patients who had suffered acute coronary syndromes (heart attack or unstable angina episode) and were hospitalized at the U-M Health System. The vast majority of them were taking some or all of the "Fab Four" classes of drugs for heart patients: anti-platelet medications such as aspirin, ACE inhibitors, beta blockers and lipid-lowering, cholesterol-fighting statin drugs.
The researchers contacted the patients six months after they left the hospital, and asked them about their adherence to their medications using standardized questionnaires. They also asked about their household size and education levels.