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Guidelines commissioned on heart attack treatment

Media Release

6 July 2004

New guidelines commissioned on best ways to treat heart attacks

New guidelines about the best way to improve New Zealand's treatment of people with heart attack or severe acute heart disease are being developed, the Ministry of Health announced today.

The Cardiac Society will be working with the Ministry of Health and the New Zealand Guidelines Group to produce appropriate advice about the best management of acute coronary syndrome, announced Clinical Services Strategy Manager Dr Andrew Holmes.

The Guidelines Group is being funded $180,000 to evaluate the latest international research.

"This is a superb opportunity to incorporate the expertise of the Cardiac Society, within a multidisciplinary team, to develop evidence-based advice for doctors and other health professionals on the most appropriate care for New Zealanders with acute coronary syndromes.

"This new evidence-based guideline will complete a suite of guidelines covering cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes," said New Zealand Guidelines Group Chief Executive Catherine Marshall.

Dr Holmes said there is considerable debate internationally and within New Zealand amongst health professionals about the effectiveness of medical treatment compared with surgical treatments.

"It's very difficult for doctors to have sufficient time to keep up with and compare the many new studies and decide what they mean for their day-to-day practice. Yet it's important doctors are able to systematically apply the results of the accumulated research evidence so our management of disease best takes advantage of improvements in knowledge, technique and skills gained both here and internationally.

"Guidelines help us systematically apply the evidence. Without such guidelines it's a bit like trying to do your tax return in your head."

"In particular, the guidelines will help clinicians steer a path through the ongoing debate about whether and when acute invasive surgery or aggressive drug treatment gives the best long-term outcomes for patients who experience severe chest pain, are short of breath or who have collapsed due to acute heart disease.

The value of funding these evidence-based guidelines was that it allowed a group of New Zealand experts to weigh up the benefits of these two main treatment options with the costs and opportunity cost and advise on the best balance of options to suit New Zealand, Dr Holmes said.

"New Zealand has high rates of heart disease compared with other similar countries, and its treatment costs hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars each year, so it's important we take the time to get guidelines that deliver the best health outcomes.

Cardiac Society members will provide input for the Guidelines Group under the clinical leadership of Dr Gerard Wilkins, current New Zealand Regional Chair of the Cardiac Society.

"This is an important and constructive step to improve health outcomes in this complex area of heart disease with changing management strategies. The Cardiac Society members welcome the opportunity to work with the Ministry of Health assisted the New Zealand Guidelines Group" Dr Gerard Wilkins said.

The evidence-based guidelines are expected to be produced next year.

ENDS

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