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Minority Patients Less Likely to Stick With Heart Attack Meds: Study

THURSDAY, Jan. 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Race and gender affect whether heart attack patients still take recommended medications a year later, a new study finds.

And black and Hispanic women are least likely to continue using the drugs meant to reduce their risk of another heart attack, researchers found.

The findings show that more must be done to help patients keep taking these important medications, the University of North Carolina researchers said.

"The policy implication from our study is that we should now put a lot of emphasis on helping patients, especially minority groups, understand the importance of these medications and help them improve their long-term adherence to get the greatest benefits," study leader Gang Fang, an assistant professor in the School of Pharmacy's Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy, said in a university news release.

For the study, published recently in the journal Circulation, the researchers analyzed data from more than 85,000 Medicare beneficiaries hospitalized for a heart attack in 2008. The medications prescribed to reduce their risk of another heart attack were statins, beta blockers and ACE (angiotensin-converting-enzyme) inhibitors and ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers).

While there were few racial or gender differences in getting patients started on the drugs, a disparity emerged when it came to patients staying on them over the long term.

Compared to white men, black and Hispanic women were the least likely to be filling their prescriptions a year later. Black and Hispanic patients had the lowest adherence to beta blockers and statins, and black patients had the lowest adherence to ACE inhibitors and ARBs.

The researchers also found that women -- who have worse results than men after a heart attack -- were less likely to still take the preventive drugs a year later. This was true for women of all races, but especially so among black and Hispanic women. A possible explanation is the difference in men's and women's beliefs about the severity of their heart attacks and the benefits from the medications, the researchers suggested.

The findings also point to the need for different interventions for different groups, according to first author Julie Lauffenburger, a graduate student in the UNC School of Pharmacy.

"Some adherence interventions in the past have focused on a blanket approach to emphasizing adherence even though patient demographic subgroups may have different needs and perceptions about medication use," she said. "These results suggest that more targeted interventions need to be considered, especially for adherence after heart attacks."

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about heart attack.

SOURCE: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, news release, Jan. 13, 2014