Purpose In 2002, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended use of aspirin for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. This study investigates the impact of the recommendation on physician prescribing patterns of aspirin.
Methods Data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS) were used to determine the rates of aspirin use in target patients in 2001 and in 2003. As outlined by the USPSTF, patients were considered aspirin candidates if they met criteria for age (> 40 yo in males, > 51 yo in females) or medical conditions (diabetics > 30 yo and all hypertensives). Patients were excluded from consideration if they had contraindications to aspirin use.
Results There were 460,460,000 visits in 2001 and 450,660,000 visits in 2003, which included diagnosis codes consistent with aspirin candidacy. These represent approximately half of the visits by adults. Among office visits by these eligible patients, 12.3% received aspirin in 2001 and 14.0% in 2003 (p = .0169). Among office visits by patients with coronary disease, 39.4% received aspirin in 2001 and 38.8% in 2003 (p = .0438).
Conclusions Among patients eligible for aspirin use as primary prevention for cardiovascular disease, a small but significant increase in aspirin prescriptions was seen from 2001 to 2003. Since the USPSTF guideline regarding aspirin use was released in 2002, it is likely to have contributed to higher aspirin prescribing among physicians. Further research is needed to determine why physician adoption of this recommendation is not more widespread.
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