Heart Treatments for Medicare Patients Improving

But aspirin and other therapies remain under-used, Yale study finds

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WEDNESDAY, June 25, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Medicare patients who have a heart attack today are more likely to be treated with the latest techniques than they were a few years ago, but there is still more that can be done, a new study says.

For the past decade, improving the quality of care given Medicare patients has been the focus of the government's Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, formerly known as the Healthcare Financing Administration. Now, research from the Yale University School of Medicine indicates progress has been made -- but more remains to be done.

Aspirin and beta-blockers, in particular, remain underused, the research indicates. The findings appear in this week's issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

The researchers analyzed the treatment of roughly 270,000 Medicare patients hospitalized with heart attacks in two time periods: 1994-1995 and 1998-1999. By comparison, they found that prescriptions for beta-blockers, given when a patient was discharged from the hospital after a heart attack, increased 20 percent and prescriptions for ACE inhibitors (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors) at discharge increased 8 percent. Early use of beta-blockers to treat symptoms increased 17 percent.

Early use of aspirin increased nearly 7 percent, the study found, and aspirin prescribed at discharge increased about 6 percent.

However, doctors should make greater use of these therapies, the researchers say, because beta-blockers still were prescribed only 70 percent of the time and aspirin 83 percent of the time at discharge.

"Ample opportunities for improvement remain," the researchers write in their study.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about treating heart attacks.

SOURCE: American Medical Association, news release, June 23, 2003


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