From the Journals

Women have fewer cardiovascular events after non–ST-segment elevation ACS



While women were found to be at lower risk of major cardiovascular events than men after non–ST-segment elevation acute coronary syndromes (NSTEACS), a new study has also shown that they remain undertreated with guideline-directed therapies.

An illustration of a beating heart ©Thinkstock

“These findings underscore the fact that efforts to modify risk factors and implement appropriate treatment strategies in women and men may be a powerful means to further improve outcomes among patients with NSTEACS,” wrote Amy A. Sarma, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and coauthors. The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

To determine if outcomes differed between men and women after NSTEACS, the researchers analyzed 68,730 patients from 10 different clinical trials as part of the Thrombolysis In Myocardial Infarction (TIMI) Study Group. All trials enrolled patients with NSTEACS within 30 days of hospitalization. Across the 10 trials, there were a total of 19,827 women (29%).

Female patients had an average age of 67 years, compared with a mean age of 62 years for men. Women were also more likely to have had hypertension, diabetes, or prior heart failure, though less likely to have had a prior MI. In regard to treatment strategies for NSTEACS, women were less likely to receive aspirin, P2Y12 inhibitors, or statins. Women at high risk were also less likely to receive aspirin, P2Y12 inhibitors, or statins.

Before adjusted analysis, women and men had a similar risk of major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE) – defined as cardiovascular death, MI, or stroke – after NSTEACS (hazard ratio, 1.04; 95% confidence interval, 0.99-1.09; P = .16). However, women were found to be at increased risk of cardiovascular death (HR, 1.16; 95% CI, 1.02-1.32; P = .03), all-cause mortality (HR, 1.12; 95% CI, 1.01-1.24; P = .03), and stroke (HR, 1.19; 95% CI, 1.03-1.37; P = .02).

After adjusting for baseline risk predictors, women were found to have a 7% lower risk of MACE (adjusted HR, 0.93; 95% CI, 0.89-0.98; P = .005), along with a 15% lower risk of cardiovascular death (aHR, 0.85; 95% CI, 0.76-0.96; P = .008) and a 16% lower risk of all-cause death (aHR, 0.84; 95% CI, 0.78-0.90; P less than .0001). Additional adjustments for guideline-based therapies did not significantly alter the risk estimates.

In an accompanying editorial, Michael E. Farkouh, MD, and Wendy Tsang, MD, of the University of Toronto noted that this study from Sarma et al. underlines the “lack of progress made in addressing sex inequality in the care for women with ACS” (J Am Coll Cardiol. 2019 Dec 9. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2019.10.017).

Though Dr. Farkouh and Dr. Tsang were not surprised that the women in the study were older than the men, as women typically develop cardiovascular disease later, they noted that the women also presented with higher baseline risk. Could this be because of the “persistent perception that coronary disease is a male disease?” They cited the treatment-risk paradox and an emphasis on diagnosing obstructive coronary disease – typically seen in men – as potential contributors to underdiagnosis and undertreatment in at-risk women.

“That this care gap for women with cardiovascular diseases continues to persist, even in well-run contemporary landmark ACS trials, highlights how challenging it is to address,” they wrote.

Dr. Sarma and coauthors acknowledged their study’s potential limitations, including the 10 trials differing in study design, enrollment timing, treatments tested, and follow-up duration. They also noted that the cohort of patients were all at moderate to high risk, which may not make the findings generalizable to the broader NSTEACS patient population.

The study authors reported numerous potential conflicts of interest, including receiving research grants from – and serving as a consultant or on the advisory board of – various pharmaceutical and medical companies. Dr. Farkouh reported receiving research support from Amgen and Novo Nordisk, and Dr. Tsang is supported by a National New Investigator Award from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

SOURCE: Sarma AA et al. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2019 Dec 9. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2019.09.065.

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