Up to 60 per cent of heart disease patients do not take their medication dramatically increasing their risk of another heart attack, new research shows.
Cheap medicines recommended for cardiovascular disease patients are being underused across the world despite their effectiveness in saving lives, a study shows.
Researchers estimate about 60 per cent of heart disease patients and up to half of those who have had a stroke might not be taking any of the main four inexpensive preventative drugs, including aspirin, recommended by doctors.
The main preventative drugs for patients are antiplatelets such as aspirin, as well as Beta-blockers that improve the heart's ability to relax, ACE inhibitors that stop heart disease getting worse, and statins to lower cholesterol.
Not taking the drugs, as well as failing to make lifestyle changes, can increase a person's risk of having another heart attack or stroke.
In the largest study of its kind, Canadian researchers looked at the use of preventative drugs among nearly 154,000 patients in 17 different countries.
Antiplatelets were taken by just one quarter of patients, Beta-blockers by 17.4 per cent, ACE inhibitors by 19.5 per cent and statins by 14 per cent.
Underuse of the drugs was most common in low-income countries where less than 10 per cent of patients used the drugs.
Between a third and half of patients from high-income countries failed to take their medication.
The authors of the study, which was presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Paris and published online by The Lancet, said improvements in the use of preventative drugs could cut the number of global cardiovascular disease cases within a few years.
"Effective preventative drugs for coronary heart disease and stroke are underused globally, with striking variation between countries at different stages of economic development," they wrote.
"Substantial opportunities remain for enhancement of drug use, even in high-income countries.
"Improvements to the uptake of effective secondary prevention strategies are probably more feasible than lifestyle modifications in primary prevention (although both are desirable) ... but this will require systematic programs in most countries."
Cardiovascular disease affects more than 100 million people around the world. About 3.5 million Australians are suffering from or at risk of the disease.
Heart Foundation of Australia's national clinical issues director Dr Robert Grenfell said the global study backed previous findings in Australia.
"Adherence to medication is an important part of heart disease," he said.
"There needs to be a concerted effort from patients and the health profession in assisting and targeting programs to assist adherence."
The Heart Foundation has been developing an adherence project which focuses on improving medication use by pharmacists, GPs and practice nurses working together.
AAPDo you have an idea for a story?
Email [email protected]