Managing acute coronary syndrome: evidence-based approaches

Sarah A Spinler
American Journal of Health-system Pharmacy: AJHP 2007 June 1, 64 (11 Suppl 7): S14-24

PURPOSE: To describe data and insights from a national quality improvement initiative known as Can Rapid Risk Stratification of Unstable Angina Patients Suppress Adverse Outcomes with Early Implementation of the American College of Cardiology (ACC)/American Heart Association (AHA) Guidelines (CRUSADE), for managing non-ST-segment elevation acute coronary syndrome (ACS), as well as the findings and implications of Acute Catheterization and Urgent Intervention Triage Strategy (ACUITY), a study of bivalirudin with or without a glycoprotein (GP) IIb/IIIa inhibitor in patients with non-ST-segment elevation ACS who were undergoing an invasive intervention, and the results of two recent studies of clopidogrel in patients with ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (MI) that are not reflected in current ACC/AHA guidelines for managing ST-segment elevation MI.

SUMMARY: Data from the CRUSADE registry suggest that there is room for improvement in the use of GP IIb/IIIa inhibitors and clopidogrel during the first 24 hours of hospitalization in patients with non-ST-segment elevation ACS who undergo early invasive cardiac procedures, and in the prescribing of angiotensin converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors at the time of discharge. Adherence to ACC/AHA guidelines for non-ST-segment elevation ACS has improved over time but further improvement is needed. Failure to reduce the dose of a GP IIb/IIIa for patients with renal insufficiency resulting in excessive dosing of GP IIb/IIIa inhibitors increases the risk of major bleeding and is particularly common among the elderly, women, and patients with renal insufficiency. The ACUITY study suggests that bivalirudin plus a GP IIb/IIIa inhibitor is a suitable alternative to standard therapy for moderate- to high-risk patients with non-ST-segment elevation ACS who are undergoing early invasive intervention, and bivalirudin alone may be preferred because of a lower risk of major bleeding. However, interpretation of the ACUITY results is complicated by numerous methodologic concerns, so the role of bivalirudin in managing non-ST-segment elevation ACS is still evolving. In patients with ST-segment elevation, clopidogrel provides an early benefit in reopening occluded coronary arteries and a late benefit in reducing cardiovascular mortality and morbidity without increasing the risk of bleeding. Clopidogrel treatment is warranted before as well as after percutaneous coronary intervention in patients with ST-segment elevation MI who receive fibrinolytic therapy. Adding clopidogrel to fibrinolytic therapy and other standard therapy reduces mortality without increasing the risk of bleeding.

CONCLUSION: Evidence-based guidelines provide recommendations for the management of ACS, but the pace of clinical research is rapid and current guidelines do not reflect the latest research findings. Pharmacists need to stay abreast of new developments and ensure that clinical practice reflects these developments.

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