Minority ethnic heart failure patients ‘36% more likely to die’ in UK

Minority ethnic patients with heart failure are more than a third more likely to die than their white counterparts, according to research.

The study, by researchers at the University of Birmingham and supported by the British Heart Foundation, looked at data from more than 16,700 people from 12 existing clinical trials for heart failure patients.

Eleven of these trials were testing the effects of beta blockers, with the remaining one examining the medication spironolactone.

The researchers’ analysis found that for patients from a minority ethnic background there was a 36% higher risk of death after an average of 17 months, compared with their white counterparts.

People from ethnic minorities who also had atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm irregularity, were over twice as likely to die during the 17-month follow-up period.

The study showed that beta blockers, which are commonly prescribed for heart failure, were able to reduce deaths in white patients by almost a third ethnic minority ethnic patients were inconclusive.

The researchers also noted that 89% of the patients included in the study were white, which highlights the under-representation of minority ethnic patients in clinical studies.

Previous research has shown that patients who are female, black, Asian or less well-off are significantly less likely to be offered heart valve surgery on the NHS in England.

Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation and a consultant cardiologist, said that the new study highlights the “stark health inequalities in how heart failure outcomes may vary depending on a patient’s ethnicity”.

“While this study was observational and cannot tell us about cause and effect, it found that patients with an ethnic minority background were sicker and more likely to die from their heart failure than others,” she said.

“If we are to close this gap, it is vital we gain a better understanding of barriers in accessing care that face those from minority ethnicity backgrounds. It is also important that research is representative of those affected by cardiovascular disease, to ensure that tests and treatments can benefit those who need them.

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“If you have been prescribed medications for heart failure, it important to take them as recommended by your doctor.”

Sebastian Fox, a medical student at the University of Birmingham and the co-lead author of the study, said: “It is crucial that steps are taken to close this worrying gap in heart failure treatment and outcomes.

“The most important thing we can do going forward is include more ethnic minority patients in trials of heart failure treatments. We otherwise risk drawing inappropriate conclusions that treatments are equally effective across different ethnicities.”

The Guardian