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Drug Therapy Boosting Heart-Attack Survival Rates
Date:3/24/2008

10-year study finds less long-term mortality

MONDAY, March 24 (HealthDay News) -- The long-term survival of older Americans who have heart attacks has improved steadily in recent years and apparently is due to the drugs they are prescribed, a new study suggests.

Medicare and pharmacy data on 21,484 residents of New Jersey and Pennsylvania who had heart attacks showed a 3 percent year-by-year reduction in death rates from 1995 to 2004, according to the study.

After adjusting for various factors that could cloud the results, the study authors found that the prescription of drugs such as beta blockers, cholesterol-lowering statins, ACE inhibitors and the like may have been the primary reason for the improvement, said Dr. Soko Setoguchi, associate physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and lead author of the report.

The study doesn't mean that surgical interventions such as artery-opening angioplasty have no place in the long-term treatment of heart attack survivors, Setoguchi said. "The way we looked at it was mortality over time," she said. "What we found was that long-term mortality mainly was less because of medical treatment."

Surgical interventions were relatively uncommon in the group that was studied, Setoguchi said. Only about 25 percent of the heart patients had such interventions, compared to more than 60 percent being prescribed beta blocker drugs, for example, she said.

The findings are published in the April 1 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The study, which had no financial support from the pharmaceutical industry, looked only at prescriptions, not at whether the participants actually took the medications, Setoguchi said. A recent study found that a fairly large percentage of heart attack survivors did not take the medications prescribed for them, and those who didn't fared worse than those who did.

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