February 25, 2008 / 10:46 PM / in 10 years

Tempting fate: Many heart prescriptions not filled

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A surprising 25 percent of people who have survived a heart attack do not fill prescriptions for drugs that could prevent another one, Canadian researchers said on Monday.

They said people who filled none of their prescriptions had an 80 percent higher chance of dying a year after their heart attacks compared with those who filled all of them.

“At least one in four patients is partially or totally non-adherent in filling discharge prescriptions,” Cynthia Jackevicius of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto wrote in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

At least 20 million people survive heart attacks and strokes every year, according to the World Health Organization, putting them at high risk for a second attack.

“Taking medications, such as aspirin, beta blockers, statins or ACE inhibitors, after having a heart attack is a powerful way to prevent future heart attacks and death, but no research to date has documented these patients’ compliance,” Jackevicius said in a statement.

She and colleagues studied data from 4,591 patients in Canada who had been in the hospital and the 12,832 prescriptions that were written as a result of their having had heart attacks.

“From the data, we were able to see what people were supposed to be filling, as far as prescriptions to prevent heart attack, and whether those prescriptions were filled or not,” Jackevicius said.

She found only three out of every four patients filled all their prescriptions.

Jackevicius said patients who filled half of their prescriptions had a 40 percent higher chance of dying in the year following their heart attacks compared with those who filled all their prescriptions.

The researchers said patients who were educated about the drugs in the hospital were more likely to fill their prescriptions.

“Older patients were less likely to fill their prescriptions, so special attention to these patients may help target those least likely to comply,” she wrote.

Editing by Will Dunham

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