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Risk-treatment mismatch in the pharmacotherapy of heart failure

Lee DS, Tu JV, Juurlink DN, Alter DA, Ko DT, Austin PC, Chong A, Stukel TA, Levy D, Laupacis A. JAMA. 2005; 294(10):1240-7.

Context — Patients with heart failure have a wide spectrum of mortality risks. To maximize the benefit of available pharmacotherapies, patients with high mortality risk should receive high rates of drug therapy.

Objective — To examine patterns of drug therapy and underlying mortality risk in patients with heart failure.

Design, Setting, and Patients — In the Enhanced Feedback for Effective Cardiac Treatment (EFFECT) population-based cohort (1999-2001) of 9942 patients with heart failure hospitalized in Ontario, Canada, we evaluated 1418 patients with documented left ventricular ejection fraction of 40% or less and aged 79 years or younger with low-, average-, and high-predicted risk of death within 1 year; all patients survived to hospital discharge. Administration of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, ACE inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), and beta-adrenoreceptor antagonists was evaluated according to predicted risk of death.

Main Outcome Measure — Heart failure drug administration rates at time of discharge and 90 days after hospital discharge.

Results — At hospital discharge, prescription rates for patients in the low-, average-, and high-risk groups were 81%, 73%, 60%, respectively, for ACE inhibitors; 86%, 80%, 65%, respectively, for ACE inhibitors or ARBs; and 40%, 33%, 24%, respectively, for beta-adrenoreceptor antagonists (all P<.001 for trend). Within 90 days following hospital discharge, the rates were 83%, 76%, and 61% for ACE inhibitors; 89%, 83%, and 67% for ACE inhibitors or ARBs; and 43%, 36%, and 28% for beta-adrenoreceptor antagonists for the 3 risk groups, respectively (all P<.001 for trend). The pattern of lower rates of drug administration in those patients at increasing risk was maintained up to 1 year postdischarge (P<.001). After accounting for varying survival time and potential contraindications to therapy, low-risk patients were more likely to receive ACE inhibitors or ARBs (adjusted hazard ratio [HR], 1.61; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.49-1.74) and beta-adrenoreceptor antagonists (HR, 1.80; 95% CI, 1.60-2.01) compared with high-risk patients (both P<.001).

Conclusions — Patients with heart failure at greatest risk of death are least likely to receive ACE inhibitors, ACE inhibitors or ARBs, and beta-adrenoreceptor antagonists. Understanding the reasons underlying this mismatch may facilitate improvements in care and outcomes for patients with heart failure.

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Keywords: Cardiovascular diseases Drugs (cardiovascular) Health care evaluation