Outpatient use of anticoagulants, rate-controlling drugs, and antiarrhythmic drugs for atrial fibrillation
ABSTRACT The first clinical practice guidelines for management of atrial fibrillation (AF) were published in 2001. We explored the use of anticoagulants, rate-controlling drugs, and antiarrhythmic drugs in patients with AF during the 4 years surrounding publication of these guidelines.
Mentions of warfarin, beta-blockers, digoxin, diltiazem, verapamil, and all class I and class III antiarrhythmic drugs made by US office-based physicians during patient visits for AF between October 1999 and September 2003 were evaluated using the IMS Health National Disease and Therapeutic Index (Plymouth Meeting, PA). Medication use by patient age, sex, and physician specialty was explored. Trends in use during the study period were estimated.
Warfarin was mentioned in an average of 37% of all AF-related visits across the observation period, with no statistically significant change over time. Digoxin was the most commonly mentioned rate-controlling drug in 23% of patient visits, followed by beta-blockers in 11% and calcium-channel blockers in 8%. Over the study period, mentions of digoxin significantly decreased, and mentions of beta-blockers significantly increased. Mentions of antiarrhythmic drugs were reported in an average of 12% of patient visits, with no significant change over the study period.
Observed trends in use of digoxin, beta-blockers, and class Ia antiarrhythmic drugs were consistent with evidence-based recommendations. However, only approximately one third of patient visits for AF included mentions of warfarin, even among patients aged > or = 60 years. These results indicate the need for continued education and interventions, especially regarding stroke prevention, in patients with AF.
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