A large number of drugs are currently used for the treatment of chronic heart failure. Treatment for other cardiovascular disorders has been shown to differ between countries. In this study we examined whether this would also be true in heart failure.
Methods and Results
We studied patients with moderate to severe heart failure, who were enrolled in an international survival study, and compared patterns of drug use between the nine countries that each included >50 patients in the study. The results were analysed to determine whether observed differences between countries could be explained by differences in the patients recruited. 1825 patients were studied (range 81–427 per country). By trial protocol, most patients were treated with angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (92%) and all with diuretics, but the proportion of patients taking high doses of these drugs was markedly different between countries. Large differences were also observed in the use of digoxin (overall 64%, 39% in the U.K. to 87% in Germany) and antiarrhythmics (overall 25%, with the highest use 44% in France). The use of beta-blockers and calcium antagonists was low (overall 6% and 8%, respectively), but also different between countries. Anticoagulants (overall 43%) were used in many patients in the Netherlands and Switzerland (around 70%), while antiplatelets (overall use 30%) were most often prescribed in Denmark (51%).
Large differences in drug use and dosing for patients with advanced heart failure are observed between (European) countries. None of these differences could be explained by differences in patient characteristics, and whether they are related to factors such as tradition, economic circumstances and national guidelines, etc. is unknown.