Cancer Patients Often Miss Out On Crucial Heart Medications: Study

The findings of a new study suggest that cancer patients may be less likely to receive proper prescription medications for heart problems, increasing their risk of heart failure.

Cancer survivors have a 15-fold increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. However, many patients and survivors of cancer are not being prescribed the cardiovascular medications they need, despite the known risk factor, Australian researchers warn.

The findings were published online last week by the medical journal JACC: CardioOncology, involving a cross-sectional observational study of 333 patients admitted to the cardiology unit at John Hunter Hospital in New South Wales, Australia, between July 2018 and January 2019. Cardioprotective medication was assessed before the patient was admitted to the hospital. Patients who did not have an indication for cardioprotective medications were excluded.

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Cardioprotective medications include statins, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), beta-blockers, and anti-platelet therapies. These drugs are key drugs used to prevent cardiovascular disease in the general population.

Data from medical records and information from patients was used to divide patients into two groups, those with a prior or current history of having cancer and those without.

Researchers found a history of cancer in 69 patients, including 11 who were still undergoing active cancer treatments at the time. Roughly 20% of patients had a history or current diagnosis of colorectal cancer, 13% breast cancer, and 11% melanoma.

Roughly two-thirds of patients developed cardiovascular disease after receiving a cancer diagnosis. Patients with a history of cancer were more likely to have heart failure as a reason for hospital admission. Despite their increased risk for heart disease, cancer patients were less likely to receive the medications they need.

Overall, fewer cancer patients and cancer survivors were prescribed the needed heart medications to treat cardiovascular disease or heart problems before they were admitted to the cardiology department of the hospital, especially heart medications like statins or anti-platelet therapy.

Statins are drugs that help to reduce cholesterol levels in the body. They include brands like Zocor and Lipitor. Anti-platelet therapy helps to reduce the likelihood of clotting and improve blood circulation. These drugs include brands like Brillinta and Plavix.

Researchers found no differences in ACE inhibitor, angiotensin receptor blocker, or beta-blocker use between groups.

Modern cancer therapies have led to improved rates of survival for many types of cancer. However, cardiovascular disease risk is increased in cancer patients and cancer survivors compared to the general population. Cardiovascular disease has become a leading cause of long-term morbidity and mortality among cancer patients and survivors.

“These results suggest that management of modifiable cardiovascular risk factors in patients with cancer is suboptimal compared with those without a history of cancer,” the researchers determined. “This highlights practice and policy gaps and the need to develop strategies to improve guideline-directed cardioprotective therapies in cancer patients and survivors.”


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