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Elderly Alcoholics Get Equal Heart Attack Care

They're just as likely to receive needed drugs and advice to quit smoking, study finds

TUESDAY, Jan. 3, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Elderly alcoholics who are hospitalized for heart attacks receive treatment equal to those elderly patients who are sober.

That's the conclusion of a recent study of Medicare patients across the United States by Yale University School of Medicine.

The study was undertaken out of concern that elderly patients diagnosed with alcohol abuse problems could be a vulnerable population that might receive substandard treatment in hospitals.

"I think the concern was that, as we know, patients who have mental health diagnoses can experience some level of stigma when they enter the health-care system," study co-author Dr. David Fiellin said in a prepared statement. Previous work had shown that patients with mental disorders, including substance abuse, were less likely to get lifesaving heart procedures such as bypass and angioplasty surgery.

Earlier research had also shown that elderly patients are often discriminated against in treatments that require organ transplants.

Fiellin and his colleagues analyzed data on 155,000 patients aged 65 and older admitted to hospitals with heart attacks. Of those, about 1,300 also had alcohol-related diagnoses on their charts.

Compared to other patients, the alcoholics were as likely to receive ACE inhibitor drugs, aspirin, angioplasty and advice to quite smoking. They were somewhat less likely, however, to receive beta blocker drugs.

The study appears in the latest issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

More information

The National Institutes of Health has more about alcoholism among the elderly.

SOURCE: Yale University, news release, Jan. 3, 2006
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