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Suboptimal management of cardiovascular risk factors in coronary heart disease patients in primary care occurs particularly in women


  • Funding: This study was funded by an educational grant from Merck, Sharp and Dohme (Australia) Pty Limited. Andrea Driscoll was supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council public health fellowship.

  • Conflict of interest: G. L. is employed by Merck, Sharp and Dohme.

Andrea Driscoll, Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, 89 Commercial Road, Melbourne, Vic. 3004, Australia. Email:


Background:  Patients with established coronary heart disease (CHD) are at the highest risk of further events. Despite proven therapies, secondary prevention is often suboptimal. General practitioners (GPs) are in an ideal position to improve secondary prevention.

Aim:  To contrast management of cardiovascular risk factors in patients with established CHD in primary care to those in clinical guidelines and according to gender.

Methods:  GPs throughout Australia were approached to participate in a programme incorporating a disease management software (mdCare) program. Participating practitioners (1258 GPs) recruited individual patients whose cardiovascular risk factor levels were measured.

Results:  The mdCare programme included 12 509 patients (58% male) diagnosed with CHD. Their mean age was 71.7 years (intra-quartile range 66–78) for men and 74 years (intra-quartile range 68–80) for women. Low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol was above target levels in 69% (2032) of women compared with 58% (2487) in men (P < 0.0001). There was also a higher proportion of women with total cholesterol above target levels (76%, 3592) compared with men (57%, 3787) (P < 0.0001). In patients who were prescribed lipid-lowering medication, 53% (2504) of men and 72% (2285) of women continued to have a total cholesterol higher than recommended target levels (P < 0.0001). Overall, over half (52%, 6538) had at least five cardiovascular risk factors (55% (2914) in women and 50% (3624) in men, P < 0.0001).

Conclusion:  This study found less intensive management of cardiovascular risk factors in CHD patients, particularly among women, despite equivalent cardiovascular risk. This study has shown that these patients have multiple risk factors where gender also plays a role.