OBJECTIVE: To assess current management practice of heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF) in multinational primary care (PC) and determine whether N-terminal-pro-B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-pro-BNP)-guided referral of HFrEF patients from PC to a cardiologist could improve care, defined as adherence to European Society of Cardiology (ESC) guideline-recommended pharmacotherapy.
METHODS: PRospective Evaluation of natriuretic peptide-based reFERral of patients with chronic HF in PC (PREFER) study enrolled HFrEF patients from PC considered clinically stable and those with NT-pro-BNP ≥600 pg/mL were referred to a cardiologist for optimisation of HF treatment. The primary outcome of adherence to ESC HF guidelines after referral to specialist was assessed at the second visit within 4 weeks of cardiologist's referral and no later than 6 months after the baseline visit. Based on futility interim analysis, the study was terminated early.
RESULTS: In total, 1415 HFrEF patients from 223 PCs from 18 countries in Europe were enrolled. Of these, 1324 (96.9%) were considered clinically stable and 920 (65.0%) had NT-pro-BNP ≥600 pg/mL (mean: 2631 pg/mL). In total, 861 (60.8%) patients fulfilled both criteria and were referred to a cardiologist. Before cardiologist consultation, 10.1% of patients were on ESC guideline-recommended HFrEF medications and 2.7% were on recommended dosages of HFrEF medication (defined as ≥50% of ESC guideline-recommended dose). Postreferral, prescribed HFrEF drugs remained largely unchanged except for an increase in diuretics (+4.6%) and mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists (+7.9%). No significant increase in patients' adherence to guideline-defined drug combinations (11.2% post-referral vs 10.1% baseline) or drug combinations and dosages (3.3% postreferral vs 2.7% baseline) was observed after cardiologist consultation.
CONCLUSIONS: PREFER demonstrates substantial suboptimal treatment of HFrEF patients in the real world. Referral of patients with elevated NT-pro-BNP levels from PC to cardiologist did not result in meaningful treatment optimisation for treatments with known mortality and morbidity benefit.