Heart failure drug

October 20, 2009 3:17:30 PM PDT
Study finds recommended heart failure medication prescribed for only one-third of eligible patients. According to recent statistics from the American Heart Association, 5.2 million people in the United States are affected by heart failure -- and those numbers continue to rise.

While treatment of the condition varies, new research finds that one therapy in particular is underutilized among the patients it could benefit.

Eyewitness News' Lori Stokes explains in this week's JAMA report.

Every year, more than one million patients are hospitalized with heart failure, a serious condition in which the heart muscle can no longer contract or relax efficiently.

"This can lead to symptoms of decreased blood flow, things like fatigue, exercise intolerance, or backup of blood in the various tissues leading to congestion," said Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow of the UCLA School of Medicine.

Quality improvement guidelines written for the treatment of heart failure have been adopted by hospitals nationwide and include the recommendation of a type of medication: Aldosterone antagonists or "blockers" as a therapy for eligible patients.

"These medications have been tested in clinical trials and shown to offer broad protection to patients," said Dr. Gregg Fonarow.

Dr. Gregg Fonarow, of the UCLA school of medicine, led research examining the number of patients appropriately discharged on aldosterone antagonists from the hospitals who were registered in the guidelines program.

The study found that in 241 hospitals between 2005 and 2007, less than one-third of eligible patients were discharged on the medication and usage by hospital varied widely.

"We have a very important therapy, aldosterone antagonists, that is widely available, is very inexpensive, but when we look at, in this study, in a contemporary time frame in hospitals across the United States, there are large numbers of eligible patients that are not being treated," said Dr. Fonarow.

Usage of this therapy increased by six percentage points over the three-year study period. Researchers hope that this report will also increase the rate at which people with heart failure are treated, following the existing guidelines.

WEB EXTRA: Click here to view an illustration of Aldosterone Antagonists.

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