A new study presented at the European Society of Cardiology meeting in Vienna, Austria, has confirmed that more patient education about cardiovascular risk is badly needed.

The 1,100-patient Pfizer-sponsored REACH-OUT study reveals that a “patient-focused, physician-implemented coronary heart disease risk evaluation and communication programme” significantly lowered the risk of CHD by 11.7%, compared to usual care.

The trial randomised physicians into two and the first doctors, “the communication programme” group, provided their patients with an evaluation using the well-known Framingham 10-year “risk calculator”, which assesses characteristics that contribute to CHD, including hypertension, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, obesity, family history, gender and age. They educated them about their results and informed them of strategies to control their risk of CHD over a six-month period.

The control group were not provided with risk evaluation and they received usual care and both sets of patients received cardiovascular drugs during the study in accordance with the physician's clinical judgment. The study found that the communication programme group showed a 20mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure, versus a 15mmHg fall in the usual care group, while 'bad’ low-density lipoprotein cholesterol was lowered by 10% and 7%, respectively. 25% of the first group reached both their target blood pressure and LDL cholesterol goals, versus 14% in the second.

“It is crucial to educate patients about their cardiovascular risk,” said Leif Erhardt, professor of Cardiology at Lund University in Sweden. However, in addition, the risk needs to be addressed “through more aggressive treatment, including drug therapy that can treat multiple risk factors.”

Pfizer's medical director, Jan Buch, said that these results suggest that when physicians inform their patients of their CV risk as part of their overall treatment regimen, the risk of cardiovascular events may be significantly reduced. “However, the 11.7% risk reduction did not normalise the patient risk, so additional measures to improve the therapy are needed," he added.