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Postgrad Med J. 2001 Dec;77(914):765-8.

A survey of the dose of ACE inhibitors prescribed by general physicians for patients with heart failure.

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Department of Medicine, Belfast City Hospital, Belfast, UK.



To describe the pattern of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor doses prescribed by general physicians for patients with chronic heart failure and to review the current evidence favouring the use of higher doses.


A retrospective survey of the medications of 125 patients with chronic heart failure (in both inpatient and outpatient settings) was carried out between December 1999 and February 2000.


Altogether 18.4% of patients surveyed were receiving no ACE inhibitor, the majority of these (65%) having a contraindication to such an agent. Of those patients who were prescribed an ACE inhibitor, 65% were receiving a high dose. The majority of patients who were prescribed a low dose of ACE inhibitor had no identifiable contraindication to receiving a higher dose. Of all patients with chronic heart failure studied, 25% were receiving either no ACE inhibitor or only a low dose in the absence of contraindication.


Since no objectively measurable variable has been shown to share a clear relationship with the outcome benefits of ACE inhibitors, no convenient and reliable assessment exists for determining when an adequate dose has been reached for each patient. There is an abundance of evidence favouring high dose ACE inhibitors in heart failure; evidence for the role of low doses is much less clear. The fact that only half of the patients with chronic heart failure were found to be receiving a high dose of ACE inhibitor is probably testimony to inaccurate perceptions and unreliable assumptions among physicians. It is likely that a change in current prescribing patterns would benefit patients with chronic heart failure.

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