Young Women, Take Your Meds!

Young women (under age 55) are less likely than young men to be prescribed or to fill their prescription after a heart attack, according to new research in the American Heart Association  journal Circulation:Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

After a heart attack, patients may be prescribed ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers and statins to prevent another one. Yet studies have documented that women use this medication at lower rates than men.

“There are two possible reasons why women take fewer cardiovascular medications than men,” said Kate Smolina, Ph.D., study lead author and postdoctoral fellow in pharmacoepidemiology and pharmaceutical policy at the Centre for Health Services and Policy Research, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. “It is either a consequence of physicians’ prescribing behavior, or patient snot taking their prescribed medication, or both.”

Researchers analyzed data on more than 12,000 heart attack patients who survived for at least one year in British Columbia, Canada, between 2007 and 2009.

They found:

  • After leaving the hospital, only one-third of men and women filled all of their prescriptions for at least 80 percent of the year.
  • Only 65 percent of women under age 55 started taking their medications, compared to 75 percent of men in the same age group.
  • There was no difference between men and women in adherence to treatment; in other words, once on therapy, men and women tended to continue or dropout at the same rates.

“The gender gap in treatment initiation among younger women is an important finding because younger women have much worse outcomes after heart attack than do men of the same age,” said Karin Humphries, M.B.A., D.Sc.,study co-author and associate professor of cardiology at the University of British Columbia. “This finding suggests that younger women should be treated aggressively, especially when we have medications that work.”

Researchers were unable to clearly determine whether the gender-based differences were driven by physician prescribing practices or patient behavior, like not filling written prescriptions.

“It is important for both physicians and patients to move away from the traditional thinking that heart disease is a man’s disease,” Smolina said. “Heart disease in young women has only recently received research attention, so it is possible that physicians and patients still have the incorrect perception that these heart medications pose risks to younger women.”

Source: American Heart Association News

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