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Study Finds Inequality in Heart Attack Treatments

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Curry says that some of the therapy gap may be attributed to the differences in symptoms that blacks and women experience when having a heart attack, which could lead to delays or misdiagnoses by their doctors. But that doesn't explain the glaring failure to send heart attack survivors home with the appropriate drugs. "That is very hard to explain," he says.

There may be other factors leading to this underuse of therapies. "There is at least the suspicion that racial and ethnic minorities come with certain preconceptions about health care and about the likelihood of these patients adhering to a medical regimen," Charles K. Francis, MD, tells WebMD. "These preconceptions can influence treatment decisions." Francis is president of Charles R. Drew University in Los Angeles and a spokesman for the American Heart Association.

He says, too, that some of these findings may be attributed to the fact that doctors, in general, are "slow to implement guidelines," and the guidelines for aspirin and beta-blocker use are fairly recent. "What may be happening is that as the physicians begin to implement the guidelines, they focus initially on the group that is most at risk: older, white men," Francis says.

Schulman says that this study, like others before it, points to the need for more education of physicians, and also to the need to "educate these segments of the population about what to expect in terms of current recommendations for treatment of a heart attack."

 

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