GPs are still prescribing too few beta blockers for heart failure patients, particularly women and patients living in areas of social deprivation, finds research published in the British Journal of General Practice.
This is despite the evidence showing that specific treatment cuts hospital admission and death rates.
And a significant proportion of patients are prescribed beta blockers that are not recommended in national guidelines.
The findings are based on repeated cross-sectional analysis of a nationally representative primary care database (DIN-LINK ), involving 152 general practices.
The researchers analysed annual prescribing trends for beta blockers between 2000 and 2005 for 7294 patients with heart failure, aged 50 and older.
Their heart failure was being “actively managed,” defined as two prescriptions of an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor or angiotensin receptor blocker during the calendar year.
The researchers were looking to see if a guideline-recommended beta blocker (bisoprolol, carvedilol, metoprolol, or nebivolol) had also been prescribed during that period.
The prescription of recommended beta blockers rose sharply from 6.1 % in 2000 to 27.0 % in 2005 in men, and from 4.2 % to 21.5 % in women.
Younger patients between the ages of 60 and 64 were also almost five times more likely to be prescribed a recommended beta blocker than patients in their mid 80s
Patients living in areas of socioeconomic deprivation were less likely to be treated.
And in 2005, a further 11.7 % of men and 12.5 % of women were prescribed beta blockers other than those recommended in national guidelines.
The authors conclude that the prescribing of beta blockers “remains low and inequitable,” and that there is still room for considerable improvement.
British Journal of General Practice doi: 10.3399/bjgp08X376195