Use of secondary stroke prevention medicines is increasing in line with Australian guidelines and clinical recommendations but there is still room for improvement, according to research published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Researchers, led by Janet Sluggett from the Quality Use of Medicines and Pharmacy Research Centre at The University of South Australia's Sansom Institute, used Department of Veterans' Affairs claims data to measure the use of antihypertensive, antithrombotic and lipid-lowering medicines by patients aged 65 and older with a history of transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or ischaemic stroke between January 2003 and December 2009.
They found small relative increases (less than 2% annually) in the use of antihypertensives and antithrombotics, and a relative increase of 9% annually in the use of lipid-lowering therapies.
The proportion of patients taking all three types of recommended medicines almost doubled over the 7-year period of the study to 50% of the study population. By December 2009, 80% of patients were dispensed an antihypertensive, 75% received an antithrombotic and 60% were dispensed a lipid-lowering medicine.
The results, the authors wrote, were "in accordance with national stroke guideline recommendations and initiatives supporting quality use of medicines in Australia".
Over 60 000 strokes occur annually in Australia, with 25% of these being recurrent events.
Comprehensive stroke management guidelines were first released in 2003 and have been updated regularly since. The guidelines recommend continued use of antihypertensive, antithrombotic and lipid-lowering medicines after TIA or ischaemic stroke to reduce the risk of a recurrent ischaemic event, unless contraindications exist.
"Only half of the [study] population were dispensed medicines from all three recommended classes by the end of the study period", the authors wrote.
"There may be opportunity to further increase use of these medicines among older Australians."