Canadians with Atrial Fibrillation Missing Out on New Treatment Options

Canadian Council for Stroke Prevention in Patients with Atrial Fibrillation advocates for improved access to current and evolving treatments

TORONTO, Dec. 11, 2012 /CNW/ - According to a recently released white paper, warfarin, the current standard of care for the prevention of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF), is suboptimally used resulting in preventable strokes.

Presented by the Canadian Council for Stroke Prevention in Patients with Atrial Fibrillation (CC-SPAF), an independent multidisciplinary advisory council, the white paper offers three recommendations for preventing stroke in the 200,000 to 600,000 Canadians living with AF1. The paper suggests that the traditional use of treatments such as warfarin, while effective, come with many challenges.

Specifically, the Council concluded that where appropriate, the following recommendations to improve the use of anti-thrombotic therapies to prevent strokes in patients with AF should be considered:

  1. Ensure that appropriate systems and infrastructures are in place for effective anti-coagulation management.
  2. Publically reimburse all anti-thrombotic therapies approved for SPAF for appropriate patients.
  3. Promote awareness of AF and its optimal treatment through professional societies and advocacy groups  to lead to better outcomes.

Improved systems for managing anti-thrombotic therapies and better access and awareness of easier to manage treatment alternatives, such as the novel oral anti-coagulants (NOACs), could prevent the often fatal and disabling outcomes for Canadians who suffer an AF-related stroke. With AF expected to triple in frequency over the next four decades2, the Council advises that there is an urgent need to improve access to these new, potentially life-saving  treatments and calls for greater awareness of AF and advocacy to address the issue. The Council also cites the importance of having appropriate systems and infrastructures in place for effective anti-coagulation management.

"Despite the ability of warfarin to reduce the risk of stroke in AF by two-thirds and risk of death by one-quarter, patients with AF often face hurdles when it comes to how the treatment affects their quality of life," says Dr. Mike Sharma, Chair, CC-SPAF and Director, Champlain Regional Stroke Program, The Ottawa Hospital. "The process can be cumbersome; it involves routine blood monitoring that is often inconvenient to the patient and costly for the healthcare system."

Research has shown that because of the limitations of warfarin fewer than 50 per cent of patients eligible for warfarin are prescribed the treatment3, resulting in a large untreated population. Furthermore, of those patients prescribed warfarin, fewer than half are appropriately anti-coagulated4, revealing that warfarin treatment remains sub-optimal for patients with AF.

To address rising healthcare costs and to optimize patient care and stroke prevention in AF, the CC-SPAF's white paper explores the importance of increasing awareness of AF as well as other oral therapies for preventing stroke due to AF. Compared to warfarin, NOACs  offer predictable dose responses, eliminate the need for monitoring of the blood thinning effect and have virtually no dietary interactions, thereby greatly improving patients' quality of life. Furthermore, clinical trials comparing NOACs with warfarin have demonstrated efficacy and safety advantages for patients5.

AF is the most common cardiac rhythm disturbance and a leading cause of stroke in Canada; a deceiving fact considering that a large proportion of AF patients are undiagnosed6. Twenty per cent of Canadians with AF who suffer stroke die within one year and 60 per cent are left with a significant neurologic disability3. As Canada's population continues to age, AF is projected to almost triple in frequency over the next four decades2; for this reason, greater awareness of AF is needed.

The increasing prevalence of AF will lead to an even more costly healthcare system if action is not taken. Strokes cost the Canadian economy $2.7 billion per year7 and it is estimated that, in the six-month period following a new stroke, the direct and indirect healthcare costs for new stroke patients add up to an average of $50,0008.

"NOACs could offer an important cost-effective treatment for those who are either not on warfarin, or for those who are inadequately managed while taking it," says Dr. Tammy Bungard, Director, Anticoagulation Management Service (AMS), Alberta Health Services, Edmonton, Alberta and Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, University of Alberta.  "For optimal outcomes, professionals must be able to choose the appropriate treatment. A significant part of choice is having all approved anti-coagulants publicly reimbursed. This reimbursement would represent a major move forward in the prevention of AF-related stroke by easing the burden of AF on an already strained healthcare system."

About Atrial Fibrillation (AF)

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common sustained heart rhythm abnormality.  An estimated 200,000-600,000 Canadians are affected by AF1 and this number continues to rise due to the aging population.

AF is marked by an irregular and often rapid heart rate that commonly causes poor blood flow to the body and is a major risk factor for ischemic stroke and death. AF predisposes patients to the formation of a blood clot in the heart, which can break away and then become trapped in blood vessels in the brain, causing a stroke. There are approximately 50,000 hospital admissions due to stroke per year; of these, 15 per cent are estimated to be associated with AF9.  Strokes occurring as a result of AF tend to be more devastating to patients. Twenty per cent of AF patients who suffer stroke die within one year and 60 per cent are left with a neurologic disability3.

About the Canadian Council for Stroke Prevention in Patients with Atrial Fibrillation

The Canadian Council for Stroke Prevention in Patients with Atrial Fibrillation (CC-SPAF) is an independent multidisciplinary advisory council established to provide advice, insight and guidance to policy makers and other stakeholders (such as patient advocacy groups and health professionals) across Canada.

Members of the Council include:

Mike Sharma, MD MSc FRCPC, Director, Champlain Regional Stroke Program, The Ottawa Hospital (Chair)

Dean Ast, BSP, Pharmacy Practice and Policy Consultant

Alan Bell, MD CCFP, Assistant Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto

Tammy J. Bungard, BSP PharmD, Director, Anticoagulation Management Service (AMS), Alberta Health Services, Edmonton, Alberta and Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta

Alexis Dishaw, Director, Community and Patient Transition and Allied Services, Humber River Regional Hospital (Vice-Chair)

John Eikelboom, MBBS MSc FRCPC, Associate Professor, Division of Hematology and Thromboembolism, Department of Medicine, McMaster University

Vidal Essebag, MD PhD FRCPC FACC, Director of Cardiac Electrophysiology, McGill University Health Centre

Theresa Green, RN PhD, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Nursing, University of Calgary

Gerry Jeffcott, Health and Pharmaceutical Policy Consultant

Janet McTaggart, Executive Director, Stroke Survivors Association of Ottawa

Harry Zwanenburg, MD MHA, Health Care Consultant

For more on the Council's recommendations, please see the link to the white paper below.
http://files.newswire.ca/1163/Whitepaper_Dec.pdf

The Council was supported by an unconditional grant from Bayer Inc., however it retained full freedom to reach its own conclusions and communicate its views.

1 As found in: Kerr CR et al., Report from the Canadian Cardiovascular Society Consensus Conference: Atrial Fibrillation 2004, accessed at http://www.ccs.ca/download/CCS_Consensus_Report.pdf on Nov. 29, 2011;

Stroke and AF, What is AF?, accessed at http://www.strokeandaf.ca/AF-and-stroke/what-is-af.aspx on Dec. 4, 2011;

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, Heart Disease Conditions: Atrial Fibrillation, accessed at http:// www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.5052135/k.2C86/Heart_disease__Atrial_fibrillation.htm  on Dec. 4, 2011;

Dewar RI and Lip GYH, Identification, diagnosis and assessment of atrial fibrillation, Heart 2007: 93: 25-28. accessed at http://heart.bmj.com/content/93/1/25 extract on Dec. 4, 2011;

Kirchhof P et al., Outcome parameters for trials in atrial fibrillation: executive summary. Recommendations from a consensus conference organized by the German Atrial Fibrillation Competence NETwork (AFNET) and the European Heart Rhythm Association (EHRA). European Heart Journal 2007: 28: 2803-2817;

Wiesel J et al., Detection of Atrial Fibrillation Using a Modified Microlife Blood Pressure Monitor, American Journal of Hypertension, 2009, Vol. 22, 848-852.

2 As found in: Go AS et al., Prevalence of diagnosed atrial fibrillation in adults: national implications for rhythm management and stroke prevention: the Anticoagulation and Risk Factors in Atrial Fibrillation (ATRIA) Study, Journal of the American Medical Association, 2001: 285: 2370-5;

Miyasaka Y et al., Secular trends in incidence of atrial fibrillation in Olmsted County, Minnesota, 1980 to 2000, and implications on the projections for future prevalence, Circulation. 2006: 114: 119-125.

3 Gladstone DJ et al., Potentially Preventable Strokes in High-Risk Patients with Atrial Fibrillation who are not Adequately Anticoagulated, Stroke. 2009: 40: 235-240

4 Bungard TJ et al., Adequacy of anticoagulation in patients coming to hospital with atrial fibrillation, Pharmacotherapy, 2000: 20: 1060-1065.

5 Ahrens I et al., What do the Re-LY, AVERROES and ROCKET AF trials tell us for stroke prevention in atrial fibrillation, Thrombosis and Haemostasis 105.4/2011.

6 Kamel H et al., Delayed Detection of Atrial Fibrillation after Ischemic Stroke, Journal of Stroke and

Cerebrovascular Diseases, 2009: Vol. 18, No. 6: 453-457.

7 Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia, Stroke Statistics, accessed at http://www.heartandstroke.ns.ca/site/c.otJYJ7MLIqE/b.3669321/k.BD5A/Stroke_Statistics.htm on Nov. 29, 2011.

8 Sharma M et al., Costs of an ischemic stroke patient in Canada: 6 month costs, Abstract from the 1st Canadian Stroke Congress, Stroke 2010: 41: e473-e510.

9Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, Heart Disease Conditions: Atrial Fibrillation, accessed at http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.5052135/k.2C86/Heart_disease__Atrial_fibrillation.htm  on Dec. 4, 2011


PDF available at: http://stream1.newswire.ca/media/2012/12/11/20121211_C8032_DOC_EN_21812.pdf

SOURCE: Canadian Council for Stroke Prevention in Patients with Atrial Fibrillation

For further information:

Gerry Jeffcott
Canadian Council for Stroke Prevention in Patients with Atrial Fibrillation
613-851-1602
gerry.jeffcott@gmail.com

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