"Terrible Discrepancy" in Treatment of Women with Heart Disease

Published Online: Saturday, February 1, 2003

The results of a new study give additional evidence that many women are not getting adequate treatment following heart attacks or chest pain caused by blocked arteries or bypass surgery or angioplasty. Physicians often fail to prescribe b-blockers, cholesterol-lowering drugs, or even aspirin to these women. The results were published in the January 21, 2003, issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The study involved 2763 post-menopausal women with heart disease, but no men. Only 33% of these women were taking b-blockers, 50% were taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, and 20% were taking aspirin.

Interestingly, women at the highest risk were the least likely to use the medications.
One explanation might be that physicians are not prescribing the drugs because of the myth that heart disease is primarily a man?s disease, and because both doctors and patients fear the side effects of some drugs.

The research points up ?a terrible discrepancy between what we know and how we treat our sisters and mothers,? said Drs. Andrew Miller and Suzanne Oparil of the University of Alabama at Birmingham in an accompanying editorial. ?This report confirms previous evidence that women with [heart disease] are being undertreated in the United States.?

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