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Dafni Kokkidi
Weber Shandwick

Clinical Articles, Featured

Poor AF treatment puts lives at risk

The lives of thousands of patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) could be at risk due to poor diagnosis, failure to follow treatment guidelines and lack of quality information for AF patients, warns a report[1] published recently by the AF AWARE partnership*.

The report argues that poor diagnosis and treatment of AF may lead to increased risk of hospitalization, stroke and other cardiovascular complications, as well as unnecessary costs for individuals and for healthcare systems in Europe.  These findings were presented at the recent EuropeAF conference in London. The findings have prompted an urgent call from the AF AWARE partnership for Europe-wide improvements.

Professor Günter Breithardt, spokesperson for the World Heart Federation, said that this report “highlights missed opportunities to manage AF more effectively, saving costs to European healthcare systems and most importantly, saving patients’ lives.”

The report reveals inconsistencies in adherence to treatment guidelines, inadequate patient resources, and a lack of country-level estimates of AF incidence and prevalence, which raises concerns that AF may be vastly underdiagnosed. This may hinder effective planning within national healthcare systems.

The report highlights that AF may cost the European Union €10 billion per year, based on a French estimate of a total average healthcare costs per year of €3,220 per AF patient. However, costs could be greatly reduced through the use of screening tools in primary care. As a study from the UK indicated, opportunistic screening of primary care patients can cost approximately £200 per patient, but is likely to lead to cost savings, avoiding more expensive secondary care.

poor-af02The report also highlights substantial costs related to loss of work due to sickness absence, loss of productivity while at work and the need for early retirement. In Italy and Germany, these indirect costs have been estimated at over €3,000 per AF patient per year, while in the Netherlands, Greece and France these costs are in the hundreds of euros for each patient. The result is increased pressure on individuals with AF, their caregivers, employers, as well as the healthcare and welfare systems.

In response to the report, the AF AWARE partnership, led by the World Heart Federation and the Stroke Alliance for Europe, is calling for immediate action in four areas:

  • Wider availability and use of disease registries, to get a more accurate estimate of AF prevalence and assess the true burden of the disease.
  • More educational tools on interpreting and applying treatment guidelines to country-specific needs.
  • An assessment of clinician training needs, patient information gaps and treatment preferences.
  • Quality patient materials, enabling patients to become true partners in making treatment decisions, with appropriate support from their clinician.

“AF is a growing public health concern, with prevalence set to double by 2050” said Dr Markus Wagner, President, Stroke Alliance for Europe. “The AF AWARE partnership is calling for urgent steps to be taken now to improve care for AF patients in Europe and reduce the physical, psychological and economic impact of this disease.”


The AF AWARE (Atrial Fibrillation AWareness And Risk Education) campaign is dedicated to gaining greater recognition of atrial fibrillation (AF) as a major international public health concern through exposing current misperceptions of the condition and focusing attention on the realities of the disease. The campaign calls for urgent steps to be taken to improve the diagnosis and care of patients with AF and the prevention of associated cardiovascular conditions. AF AWARE was jointly launched in 2009 by the World Heart Federation, the Stroke Alliance For Europe, the Atrial Fibrillation Association and the European Heart Rhythm Association. It is supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Sanofi-Aventis.

About the “Atrial Fibrillation in Europe: How AWARE are you?” report

The report was authored by independent health economist Leela Barham, on commission of the Stroke Alliance for Europe (SAFE) and the World Heart Federation and funded by an unrestricted grant from Sanofi-Aventis. The study was initiated in response to a perceived lack of awareness of AF and a lack of comparable information and data across Europe. The research involved an English-language literature review of relevant publications between 2005 and 2010, as well as a survey of member organizations of the World Heart Federation and the Stroke Alliance for Europe (SAFE) between April and September 2010.

Read the report online:


  1. Barham, L. Atrial Fibrillation in Europe: How AWARE are you?, November 2010

Published on: December 9, 2010

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  • ArrhythmiaAlliance
  • Stars
  • Anticoagulation Europe
  • Atrial Fibrillation Association

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