Despite the proven benefits of aspirin therapy in the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD), utilization rates of aspirin remain suboptimal in relation to recommendations. We studied national trends of aspirin use among intermediate- to high-risk patients in the US ambulatory care settings and compared the priority given to aspirin versus statins for CVD risk reduction. We also examined patient and health care provider contributors to the underuse of aspirin.
We used the 1993–2003 US National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey to estimate aspirin use by cardiovascular risk. Physician-noted cardiovascular diseases defined high risk. Intermediate risk was defined as having diabetes mellitus or multiple major risk factors. The proportion of patient visits in which aspirin was reported increased from 21.7% (95% confidence interval: 18.8%–24.6%) in 1993–1994 to 32.8% (25.2%–40.4%) in 2003 for the high-risk category, 3.5% (2.0%–5.0%) to 11.7% (7.8%–15.7%) for visits by patients diagnosed with diabetes, and 3.6% (2.6%–4.6%) to 16.3% (11.4%–21.2%) for those with multiple CVD risk factors. Beginning in 1997–1998, statins were prioritized over aspirin as prophylactic therapy for reducing CVD risk, and the gaps remained wide through 2003. In addition to elevated CVD risk, greater aspirin use was independently associated with advanced age, male gender, cardiologist care, and care in hospital outpatient departments.
Improvements in use of aspirin in US ambulatory care for reducing risks of CVD were at best modest during the period under study, particularly for secondary prevention, where the strongest evidence and most explicit guidelines exist. Aspirin is more underused than statins despite its more favorable cost-effectiveness. Aggressive and targeted interventions are needed to enhance provider and patient adherence to consensus guidelines for CVD risk reduction.
Aspirin is underused compared with statins especially for secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, despite being more cost-effective.