Context: Effective medical care assumes delivery of evidence-based medicines to appropriate patients with doses comparable to those studied.
Objective: To investigate dosing of unfractionated heparin (UFH), low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH), and glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitors, and the association between dosing and major outcomes.
Design, setting, and participants: A prospective observational analysis in 387 US academic and nonacademic hospitals of 30,136 patients from the CRUSADE (Can Rapid Risk Stratification of Unstable Angina Patients Suppress Adverse Outcomes With Early Implementation of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Guidelines) National Quality Improvement Initiative Registry who had non-ST-segment elevation acute coronary syndromes (NSTE ACS) with chest pain and either positive electrocardiograms or cardiac biomarkers between January 1 and September 30, 2004.
Main outcome measures: Excessive dosing of UFH, LMWH, and glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitors and major clinical outcomes, including bleeding, in-hospital mortality, and length of stay.
Results: A total of 3354 patients (42%) with NSTE ACS who were administered antithrombotic agents received at least 1 initial dose outside the recommended range. An excess dose was administered to 2934 patients (32.8%) treated with UFH, 1378 (13.8%) treated with LMWH, and 2784 (26.8%) treated with glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitors. Factors associated with excess dosing included older age, as well as female sex, renal insufficiency, low body weight, diabetes mellitus, and congestive heart failure. Relative to those patients not administered excess dosages, patients with excess dosages of UFH, LMWH, and glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitors either tended toward or had higher risks for major bleeding (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 1.08; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.94-1.26; OR, 1.39; 95% CI, 1.11-1.74; and OR, 1.36; 95% CI, 1.10-1.68; respectively). Bleeding increased relative to the degree of excess dose and to the number of agents administered in excess (6.6% [237/3590] if neither heparin nor glycoprotein IIb/IIIa excess vs 22.2% [93/419] if both excess). Mortality and length of stay were also higher among those patients administered excess dosing. We estimated that 15% (400/2766) of major bleeding in this population may be attributable to excess dosing.
Conclusions: Patients with NSTE ACS treated in the community often receive excess doses of antithrombotic therapy. Dosing errors occur more often in vulnerable populations and predict an increased risk of major bleeding.