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Many Elderly Heart Attack Patients Do Not Refill Meds

October 19, 2012

A new study found that many elderly people who have had a heart attack do not stick with the medications that are prescribed by their physicians, even though the drugs can potentially save their lives.

Results of the study, which were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, were based on medical and prescription information gathered from over 9,500 beneficiaries of Medicare who had experienced and survived a heart attack.

heart attack and medications studyAfter suffering a heart attack, patients are usually prescribed several kinds of medications to prevent another attack, including clot busters, beta-blockers, blood pressure drugs, and statins. According to the study, in the first month after leaving the hospital, only 46% of heart attack patients filled prescriptions for a clog-buster drug called clopidogrel, or Plavix; 51% filled prescriptions for a beta-blocker; 59% for one of two types of blood pressure drugs; and 54% for a statin.

The overall rate of adherence to these drugs within a year and a half after a heart attack ranged from 37% to 50%.

Leader of the study, Ilene Zuckerman from the School of Pharmacy at the University of Maryland, said that she was surprised to find that the use of heart attack drugs was so low, considering that they are a standard part of heart attack treatment.

Patients who stuck with their prescriptions of heart attack medications, except for the increasingly controversial beta-blockers, had a significantly lower chance of experiencing heart failure, stroke, or another heart attack, or dying early. For instance, those who refilled almost all or all of their prescriptions for statins had their risk of experiencing another serious health event or dying early reduced by about 29%, compared to those who took the drugs infrequently.

Keeping the results of this study in mind, heart attack patients should try to refill all the medications that are prescribed by their doctors. Our cardiologists can offer more information and personalized advice on heart attack medications.

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