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1/4 million AF patients risk stroke due to wrong treatment

Many patients with atrial fibrillation are still taking aspirin, which is no longer recommended to prevent strokes, warns campaign group

Around a quarter of a million patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) could be at risk of stroke because they are receiving the wrong treatment, a campaign group has warned.

More than 260,000 AF patients are either not receiving any preventative treatment for the condition, or are only taking aspirin, despite the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (Nice) no longer recommending this former treatment option, the AF180 Degrees campaign said today (June 15).

The figures comes from a review of anonymised GP practice data commissioned by the campaign group, which was founded by charities the AF Association, Anticoagulation Europe, and the Arrhythmia Alliance, alongside anticoagulant manufacturers Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Of the almost 895,000 patients reviewed, 13.5% were only receiving aspirin for stoke prevention in 2016, while 15.7% were receiving no preventative treatment at all, the campaign group said.

"Opportunistic" checks

On its website, the group recommends that healthcare professionals across all clinical settings improve how they identify patients with AF through “opportunistic” manual pulse checks.

They should also have “responsible” conversations with patients about the inappropriateness of using aspirin alone to prevent stroke, it added.

“Wake up” to the situation

Professor Martin Cowie, honorary consultant cardiologist at the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, said AF patients on either aspirin alone or without any treatment should have an “urgent review”. These patients should be treated with an anticoagulation therapy where appropriate, he stressed.

“The medical community needs to wake up to the current situation and make urgent changes to improve the level of care people can expect in the UK,” he added.

Nice guidance

In June 2014, Nice updated its guidance for AF patients. It advised against the use of aspirin monotherapy solely for stroke prevention, instead recommending anticoagulation with "apixaban, dabigatran etexilate, rivaroxaban or a vitamin K antagonist".

How many of your patients with AF still take aspirin?

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