Too Few Patients With Heart Disease Take Aspirin
WebMD News Archive
March 13, 2000 (Minneapolis) -- Far too few patients with heart disease are
taking aspirin, even though the drug can help prevent further heart attacks and
strokes, a new study says.
"Patients who have heart disease, and who are not on aspirin, need to
ask physicians if they should be taking it," says Randall S. Stafford, MD,
PhD. "Patients who are told to take aspirin should do it." Stafford is
an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a senior
scientist at the Institute for Health Policy at Partner/Massachusetts General
Hospital in Boston. His study was published in the journal
Aspirin is recommended for all patients who have had heart attacks, unless
there is some reason they can't take it, such as an allergy. Studies have
consistently found it to reduce these patients' risk of having another heart
attack or stroke.
Stafford reviewed the records of more than 10,000 doctor visits of heart
disease patients from 1980 to 1996. Aspirin use among these patients, he
writes, increased from 5% to about 26% during that time. But experts say this
rate is still disturbingly low.
"This is the first comprehensive study I've seen that looks at the
consumption of aspirin in the target population, and the findings are
distressing," says Richard A. Levinson, MD, DPA, who reviewed the article
for WebMD. "The numbers should be closer to 100%."
"The public needs to know that an exhaustive number of studies have
shown the role of aspirin in secondary prevention," says Levinson, who is
associate executive director of the American Public Health Association.
"It's a safe and effective way to prevent additional [heart attack] or
Female heart patients and those over 80 were less likely to be taking
aspirin, according to the study. It found that 29% of men with coronary artery
disease took the drug, compared to 21% of women. Among patients aged 65 to 79,
about 26% were aspirin users, compared to 17% of those 80 and up. Smokers,
people with elevated cholesterol, and those who had private insurance were also
more likely to use aspirin.