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Study: Women Less Likely Than Men to Take Meds After Heart Attack

Findings underscore need for more-aggressive treatment in women, authors say

Women appear less likely than men to take all of the medications needed after a heart attack to help prevent repeat episodes, according to a Canadian study summarized by Reuters.

Investigators examined data on more than 12,000 patients who survived for at least 1 year after a heart attack between 2007 and 2009. They found that women were just as likely as men to stick with prescribed drugs to lower cholesterol and blood pressure once they started. Women, however, were less likely than men to start taking all of the drugs recommended for heart attack survivors.

While the researchers couldn’t determine the reason for this gender gap –– doctors might not have prescribed the drugs or women might not have filled the prescriptions –– the findings emphasize the need to offer women more-aggressive treatment, according to lead author Dr. Kate Smolina of the University of British Columbia.

The study, published in Circulation, found that among heart attack patients under the age of 55, only 65% of women initiated treatment with all appropriate drugs, compared with 75% of men that age. For the oldest patients in the study (more than 85 years of age), drug compliance was generally worse, but the gender disparity wasn’t so pronounced. At age 85 and over, 50% of men and 48% of women initiated appropriate therapy. Once they filled their prescriptions, however, medication adherence was similar for men and women 1 year after they left the hospital, the study found.

Overall, more than two-thirds of the heart attack survivors in the study initiated treatment with all appropriate medications within 2 months after leaving the hospital. Over the following year, however, only one-third of these individuals filled their prescriptions at least 80% of the time.

Previous research has shown that women, particularly younger women, are less likely than men to receive recommended therapies after a heart attack, noted Dr. Gregg Fonarow, co-director of preventive cardiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“This study confirms those prior findings but shows, once started on post [heart attack] medications, women were just as likely to continue therapy through the first year,” Fonarow, who wasn’t involved in the study, told Reuters. “This suggests the differences in initial outpatient use reflects differences in therapies being prescribed at discharge from the hospital.”

Source: Reuters, October 13, 2015

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