Background: Clinical guidelines recommend beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors/angiotensin-receptor blockers, and statins for the secondary prevention of acute myocardial infarction (AMI). It is not clear whether variation in real-world practice reflects poor quality-of-care or a balance of outcome tradeoffs across patients. Methods: The study cohort included Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries hospitalized 2007-2008 for AMI. Treatment within 30-days post-discharge was grouped into one of eight possible combinations for the three drug classes. Outcomes included one-year overall survival, one-year cardiovascular-event-free survival, and 90-day adverse events. Treatment effects were estimated using an Instrumental Variables (IV) approach with instruments based on measures of local-area practice style. Pre-specified data elements were abstracted from hospital medical records for a stratified, random sample to create "unmeasured confounders" (per claims data) and assess model assumptions. Results: Each drug combination was observed in the final sample (N = 124,695), with 35.7% having all three, and 13.5% having none. Higher rates of guideline-recommended treatment were associated with both better survival and more adverse events. Unmeasured confounders were not associated with instrumental variable values. Conclusions: The results from this study suggest that providers consider both treatment benefits and harms in patients with AMIs. The investigation of estimator assumptions support the validity of the estimates.
Keywords: Medicare claims analyses; combination drug therapy; comparative effectiveness research; myocardial infarction; selection bias; unmeasured confounders.