Canadian atrial fibrillation anticoagulation study: were the patients subsequently treated with warfarin? Canadian Atrial Fibrillation Anticoagulation Study Group.
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OBJECTIVE: To determine the effect of the results of clinical trials on the behaviour of patients and physicians, the authors ascertained the proportion of patients participating in the Canadian Atrial Fibrillation Anticoagulation (CAFA) study who started or continued warfarin therapy at the end of the study and identified factors affecting the decision to use or not use warfarin. The CAFA study was a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, multicentre study to evaluate the efficacy of warfarin in preventing stroke among patients with nonrheumatic atrial fibrillation. Recruitment and follow-up were stopped early because two other similar studies had shown a decrease in the rate of stroke among patients treated with warfarin. DESIGN: Mail survey 21 months after the end of the study. PARTICIPANTS: The personal physicians of 336 patients who had participated in the CAFA study. OUTCOME MEASURES: Type of antithrombotic therapy the patients had received since the CAFA study ended for patients who were not receiving warfarin, the reasons they were not. RESULTS: Questionnaires concerning 254 (76%) of the patients who had participated in the study were returned. Since the end of the CAFA study, 153 (60%) of these patients had been treated continually with warfarin, 14 (6%) had been treated with warfarin but had subsequently stopped taking it, 59 (23%) had taken acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) continually, 5 (2%) had been taking ASA but had subsequently stopped taking it, and 23 (9%) had not taken either drug. The responding physicians stated that 58 (67%) of the patients who were not treated with warfarin did not wish to take the drug. The patients who had received warfarin during the CAFA trial were more likely to be treated with warfarin after the trial (75%) than were those who had received a placebo (56%) (p = 0.001). The probability of the patients' being treated with warfarin also depended on which study centre they had been treated in (p = 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Of the patients in the CAFA study for whom questionnaires were received, only 167 (66%) had been treated with warfarin after the end of the study. The patients were more likely to have been treated with warfarin after the study if they had received warfarin during the study. The positive results of clinical trials, on their own, are not enough to fully change the behaviour of patients and physicians.
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