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Friday, 29 September, 2000, 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK
Doctors told to use 'super aspirin'
Heart attack patient
Thousands are admitted to hospital with heart problems every year
A life-saving drug that is used to treat heart attack patients in just a handful of UK hospitals is to become routinely available on the NHS.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence has recommended that 'super aspirins', which save lives after a heart attack by reducing the risk of blood clotting, should be used by NHS doctors.

A recent study suggested that just one in 50 hospitals across the UK used the drug. The authors suggested that more lives would be saved if the drug was routinely prescribed.

But NICE, which applies only to England and Wales, has suggested that the drug should be much more widely available and should be given to high risk patients who have a minor heart attack, unstable angina or are undergoing a balloon angioplasty - a procedure to unblock the arteries.

This Government is committed to fighting heart disease

Health minister John Denham

An estimated 115,000 patients are admitted to hospital in England and Wales each year with unstable angina and myocardial infarction or minor heart attacks.

NICE also ruled that many more patients should be offered implantable defibrillators.

These are minute devices, similar to pacemakers, which are planted in the chest to treat patients with life threatening disorders of heart rate and rhythm.

The mini defibrillators deliver electric shocks, for example, if the patient has a very rapid heart beat.

The government has made tackling heart disease a priority for the NHS.

Andrew Dillon, chief executive of NICE, said the recommendations should help doctors to reduce the number of deaths from heart disease.

He added that the treatments would be "of enormous benefit to patients".

Health Minister John Denham welcomed the recommendations.

"This Government is committed to fighting heart disease." He added: "They will help to ensure that heart patients receive equal access to care throughout the country."

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