Half of Older Diabetics Go Without Key Heart Drugs

Guidelines urge use of ACE inhibitors, ARBs, but only 43 percent get them

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TUESDAY, April 18, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Just 43 percent of diabetics over the age of 55 receive medications that could help protect their heart and kidneys, even though nearly all of these patients could benefit from such drugs, a new U.S. study finds.

Even among diabetic patients with existing heart and kidney problem -- patients with the most to gain from drugs like ACE inhibitors or ARBs -- the rate of use was just 53 percent, the researchers said.

"These are drugs that we know save lives and save money, and still we're only using them in less than half of the people who could benefit," researcher Dr. Allison Rosen, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan, said in a prepared statement.

"It's especially striking that their rate of use isn't much higher in people most likely to gain -- that is, those with multiple clinical indications and risk factors," she said.

The study did not identify the reasons why the use of these drugs is so low, but Rosen said the they may include: poor doctor awareness; cost to patients; and a lack of effective measures to track and encourage the use the drugs.

For their study, Rosen and her colleagues analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They published their findings in the April issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

ACE inhibitors and ARBs have been recommended by U.S. national diabetes-treatment guidelines for years. That's because there's strong evidence that these drugs can prevent heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure and other problems that disproportionately threaten older diabetics. The drugs are especially recommended for diabetes patients who already show signs of heart or kidney damage, or who have high blood pressure.

Rosen suggested that diabetes patients should talk to their doctor about whether they should be taking ACE inhibitors or ARBs.

The study was funded by the U.S. government's Agency on Healthcare Research and Quality.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about diabetes.

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, April 18, 2006

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