Science

Heart attack patients who skip medication at high risk, study says

Thirty per cent of heart attack patients who neglect to fill any of the prescribed medications for their condition may be dying within a year, a new Canadian study estimates.

Thirty per cent of heart attack patients who neglect to fill any of the prescribed medications for their condition may be dying within a year, a new Canadian study estimates.

According to researchers at Ontario's Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, a failure to adhere to medications that protect the heart, such as aspirin, beta blockers, statins or ACE inhibitors, could have deadly effects.

The study found that heart attack patients who did not fill any of their prescriptions had an 80 per cent higher chance of dying in the year following their heart attacks versus those who filled all of their prescriptions.

Those patients who filled some of their prescriptions but not others had a 40 per cent higher chance of dying in their first year versus those who filled all of them.

Those patients who filled none of their prescriptions had a one-year mortality rate of approximately 30.4 per cent; those who filled some prescriptions had a 20.5 per cent mortality rate, while those who took all of their drugs had a 12.8 per cent chance of dying in the first year.

One in five prescriptions were not filled by heart attack patients after they left the hospital. Of the cardiac drugs, the lowest fill rates by 120 days were for injectable blood thinners (13.3 per cent) and antiplatelets (55.7 per cent).

Of the non-heart-related prescriptions, supplements such as calcium and potassium (4.9 per cent), antibiotics (22.1 per cent), antidepressants (67.4 per cent) and respiratory drugs (76.6 per cent) had the lowest fill rates.

The researchers looked at data of 4,591 patients in Canada who had been in hospital, as well as the 12,832 prescriptions they received as a result of their heart attacks.

"We hope that members of the health-care team including physicians, nurses and pharmacists will use this information to reinforce their educational efforts aimed at ensuring heart attack patients fill their prescriptions after leaving hospital," said co-author and ICES senior scientist, Jack Tu.

The authors recommend that patients who are unclear as to why they need to take the medications should contact their health-care team. As for health-care practitioners, they should consider making followup telephone calls to remind patients to fill prescriptions.

"Heart attack patients need to know that they will significantly increase their risk of dying if prescriptions aren't filled — it's that simple," said Tu.

The study is published in the Feb. 26 issue of Circulation.

now