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Doctors Under-Use Heart Drug

Wed., Jan. 8, 1997

Doctors are missing the chance to save thousands of lives because they under-use a drug known to prevent deaths among elderly heart attack survivors, according to a study published today.

Only one in five of the patients who fit the medical criteria for getting the drugs, called beta-blockers, was actually given them in the early 1990s, the Harvard University-affiliated researchers found. Apparently as a result, there were 43 percent more deaths over a two-year period among those who did not get the medication.

The group that did not get betablockers also had 20 percent more hospitalizations in the two years following their heart attacks.

Together with other recent research, the new report “suggests that beta-blockers are under-utilized in heart attack survivors,” said Dr. Bernard Gersh, chairman of the American Heart Association’s council on clinical cardiology, in an interview.

Other studies have indicated that beta-blockers are underused among younger heart attack victims. However, the new study, which appears in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association, is the first large project to study beta-blocker use among heart attack survivors over age 65.

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