Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common sustained cardiac arrhythmia, and patients with AF are at an increased risk for stroke. Thromboprophylaxis with vitamin K antagonists reduces the annual incidence of stroke by approximately 60%, but appropriate thromboprophylaxis is prescribed for only approximately 50% of eligible patients. Health plans may help to improve quality of care for patients with AF by analyzing claims data for care improvement opportunities.
To analyze pharmacy and medical claims data from a large integrated commercial database to determine the risk for stroke and the appropriateness of anticoagulant use based on guideline recommendations for patients with AF.
This descriptive, retrospective claims data analysis used the Anticoagulant Quality Improvement Analyzer software, which was designed to analyze health plan data. The data for this study were obtained from a 10% randomly selected sample from the PharMetrics Integrated Database. This 10% sample resulted in almost 26,000 patients with AF who met the inclusion criteria for this study. Patients with a new or existing diagnosis of AF between July 2008 and June 2010 who were aged ≥18 years were included in this analysis. The follow-up period was 1 year. Demographics, stroke risk level (CHADS2 and CHA2DS2-VASc scores), anticoagulant use, and inpatient stroke hospitalizations were analyzed through the analyzer software.
Of the 25,710 patients with AF (CHADS2 score 0–6) who were eligible to be included in this study, 9093 (35%) received vitamin K antagonists and 16,617 (65%) did not receive any anticoagulant. Of the patients at high risk for stroke, as predicted by CHADS2, 39% received an anticoagulant medication. The rates of patients receiving anticoagulant medication varied by age-group—16% of patients aged <65 years, 22% of those aged 65 to 74 years, and 61% of elderly ≥75 years. Among patients hospitalized for stroke, only 28% were treated with an anticoagulant agent in the outpatient setting before admission.
Our findings support the current literature, indicating that many patients with AF are not receiving appropriate thromboprophylaxis to counter their risk for stroke. Increased use of appropriate anticoagulation, particularly in high-risk patients, has the potential to reduce the incidence of stroke along with associated fatalities and morbidities.