Aims Long-term beta-blockade reduced mortality after acute myocardial infarction by about a quarter in a series of published trials. Representative data on beta-blocker use for secondary prevention are scanty but indicate wide variations. We have analysed European practice, and sources of variation, by regional sampling of acute myo-cardial infarction patients admitted to hospital in 11 countries during the period January 1993–June 1994.
Methods and results Treatment data for 4035 representative patients were collected for the hospital phase and 6 months after discharge. A logistic regression model was developed to describe the predictors of beta-blocker use. In the 11 regional samples, 6–38% (20% overall) of patients had no recorded contraindications but were discharged without a beta-blocker. In the absence of perceived contraindications, there was a strong, independent negative association between age and odds of treatment (P<0·001), and women were less likely to be treated than men (adjusted odds ratio 0·76, 95% CI0·58–0·99). Discontinuation of beta-blocker treatment by 6 months was significantly less likely in regions where the proportion given such treatment at discharge was high. In contrast, use of antithrombotic agents in the samples was consistently high.
Conclusions There is persisting low use of beta-blocker secondary prophylaxis, particularly in the elderly and in women, not attributable to perceived contraindications or intolerance. Considerable regional variations persist despite shared trials evidence. Discharge treatment strongly influences long-term medication.