£630k research project to determine best treatment after a heart attack

4 January 2018        

Category: Research

We're funding a trial, involving nearly 20,000 patients in Scottish hospitals, that will find out which treatments are best  for patients after a heart attack. The results could change the way heart attack patients are treated in the UK and abroad, and prevent people from needing to return to hospital.

BHF Professor David Newby BHF Professor David Newby who is leading the trial

We have awarded £630,000 to BHF Professor of Cardiology David Newby and his team at the University of Edinburgh to carry out the study.

At the end of the five-year trial, scientists will be able to say how long people should be prescribed blood-thinning medicines after a heart attack.

Every 20 minutes someone goes to hospital in Scotland due to heart attack

In the weeks and months after having a heart attack people are at high risk of having another heart attack. To combat this risk, doctors prescribe two anti-platelet medicines – commonly known as ‘blood-thinning’ drugs. However, these treatments have the side effect of increasing the risk of bleeding.

As with all medicines, doctors want to strike the right balance of benefit versus risk for their patients. There is disagreement over the optimum length of time for which patients should take two blood-thinning drugs after a heart attack. Current European guidelines recommend treatment for 12 months, but some experts believe this is too long.

Now Professor Newby and his team at our Centre of Research Excellence in will carry out a clinical trial of nearly 20,000 people in Scotland who have had a heart attack. Half of participants will be prescribed the blood-thinning medicines for 12 months, and half for just three months. Using electronic health records, the team will track how the participants are getting on over the course of 15 months.

Their findings will indicate the optimum length of time people should be prescribed blood-thinning medicines after heart attack and the results could change clinical practice in the UK and further afield.

Professor Newby said: “We really need to know how long to give these drugs as it has implications for health benefits, hazards of side-effects and overall cost of the treatment. We are delighted that all Cardiologists across Scotland have come together to perform this trial and look forward to working in partnership with our patients to address this simple but critical question.”

James Cant, our director at BHF Scotland said: “In the 1960s more than 7 out of 10 heart attacks in the UK were fatal. But thanks to research and medical advances funded by the likes of the BHF, at least 7 out of 10 people survive.

“We need to find out how best to treat people who suffer a heart attack to ensure they don’t return to hospital and I’m delighted to say the BHF is funding pioneering research in Scotland’s capital that could influence medical decisions in the future at home and abroad.”

Our life saving scientific research is funded purely by fundraising, donations and legacies and nearly £70m is currently being spent in Scotland.

Mr Lindsay Ross, from Inverurie, suffered a heart attack three years ago while hillwalking in the Cairngorms. He was prescribed two anti-platelet medications: Aspirin and Clopidogrel. He’s still on a low dose of Aspirin but the Clopidogrel was stopped after one year.

Lindsay said: “I’m aware that it’s accepted by the medical profession that the potential benefits of taking these anti-platelet drugs outweigh the side effects, some of which can be serious. 

“I think it’s very important to ensure that any treatment involving these medicines is well understood and therefore I am pleased to learn that the BHF is funding such research, and that scientists have the support of Cardiologists across Scotland to work in partnership to address this issue.”