Europe needs to do more to prevent strokes caused by atrial fibrillation (AF), or the region will enter a 'stroke crisis', according to a new report published by Action for Stroke Prevention (ASP).
ASP, which comprises an alliance of AF experts funded by Bayer, launched How Can We Avoid a Stroke Crisis in Europe? to mark World Stroke Day, and encourage European governments to commit to support earlier diagnosis and improved awareness and education of AF's role in stroke.
According to ASP, patients with AF, which is the most common sustained heart rhythm abnormality, are five times more likely to have a stroke compared with the general population.
Despite this, about 70 per cent of patients with diagnosed AF who have a stroke caused by a blood clot were not receiving anticoagulant therapy, such as Bayer's Xarelto, to prevent AF-related stroke at the time.
“It is our hope that national governments will address this as they plan how to meet the United Nations' commitment to reduce non-communicable diseases by 25 per cent by the year 2025,” said John Camm, Professor of Clinical Cardiology at St George's University, London, UK.
The ASP encouraged all stakeholders, including healthcare professionals, policy-makers, patient organisations and the pharma industry, to work together to reduce the number of incidences of AF-related stroke, with stretched healthcare budgets struggling to cope with the €64bn annual cost to treat stroke in Europe.
Particular recommendations included improving public awareness and understanding of AF and the risk of AF-related stroke; encouraging EU member states to share best practice in stroke prevention; and implementing standards and targets for healthcare professionals, such as targets for the number of people screened for AF.
Cecilia Wikström, Member of European Parliament (MEP) and a co-author of the report's foreword, gave her support to the recommendations.
“Their implementation will contribute to the prevention of stroke in people with AF and, in turn, reduce the dramatically increasing clinical, economic and social burden of stroke in Europe,” she said.
“It is important that governments and healthcare policy makers take action to ensure that diagnosis and appropriate treatment are available to all European citizens.”
Bayer's Xarelto (rivaroxaban) has demonstrated it can reduce the risk of stroke in people with AF, and is approved for the condition in both Europe and the US, where it is marketed by Johnson & Johnson.
It has been locked in a battle for market share with Boehringer Ingelheim's Pradaxa (dabigatran etexilate mesylate), and more competition is likely to be on the way in the form of Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb's Eliquis (apixaban), which has demonstrated encouraging results in phase III trials.
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