In November 1988, 164 hospitals enrolled in the Drug Surveillance Network participated in a nationwide survey of prescribing patterns for thrombolytic drugs for patients with an acute myocardial infarction. The results indicated that alteplase has made dramatic inroads, being used exclusively in 14.6% of the hospitals; in 64% of the hospitals both alteplase and streptokinase were on the formulary. Overall, however, only 17% of patients admitted with an acute myocardial infarction were treated with a thrombolytic, and use of these agents varied markedly across institutions. One of the reasons for this low figure may be the current maximum allowable time from onset of symptoms to administration of a thrombolytic. This time limit was less than 6 hours in the majority of hospitals in spite of recent evidence suggesting that these drugs may be effective up to 24 hours after onset of symptoms. The low and variable use of the agents for acute myocardial infarction suggests the need to identify patient- and physician-related obstacles so that overall attitudes and professional practice can be modified to reverse this trend. Given large number of institutions reporting the presence of formal, prospective, pharmacy-initiated monitoring programs, we suggest that clinical pharmacists will play a major role in implementing the necessary changes.
By Thaddeus H. Grasela, Green JA