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BACKGROUND: The extent to which guidelines for the treatment of heart failure are currently followed in primary care in the UK is unclear. OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the prevalence of heart failure and the pharmacological management of heart failure in relation to European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidelines. METHODS: Retrospective cohort study using routinely collected data from 163 general practices across Great Britain contributing data to the Doctors Independent Network (DIN-LINK) database over a 5-year period until December 31, 2006. RESULTS: From a patient population of nearly 1.43 million, 9311 patients with heart failure were identified [mean age 78 years (SD 12)], giving an estimated prevalence of 0.7%. Of these, 7410 (79.6%) were prescribed a loop diuretic, 6620 (71.1%) were prescribed an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor or ARB, 3403 (36.6%) were prescribed beta-blockers but only 2732 (29.3%) were prescribed an ACE inhibitor or ARB and a beta-blocker in combination. Thirty-five per cent of patients prescribed ACE inhibitor and 11.5% of those prescribed beta-blockers met ESC guideline target doses. Age, gender and comorbidity predicted whether patients received beta-blocker or ACE inhibitor with younger males being more likely to receive maximal therapy. CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that while most patients with heart failure receive an ACE inhibitor/ARB in primary care, few are titrated to target dose and many do not receive a beta-blocker. Optimum treatment appears to be most likely for young men. New strategies are required to ensure equitable and optimal treatment for all.

Original publication




Journal article


Fam Pract

Publication Date





145 - 153


Adrenergic beta-Antagonists, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Angiotensin II Type 1 Receptor Blockers, Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors, Cohort Studies, Cross-Sectional Studies, Dose-Response Relationship, Drug, Drug Therapy, Combination, Family Practice, Female, Guideline Adherence, Heart Failure, Humans, Male, Practice Guidelines as Topic, Primary Health Care, Retrospective Studies, Sodium Potassium Chloride Symporter Inhibitors, United Kingdom