Platelet glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitors have been extensively studied in the treatment of patients with ischemic heart disease. Data regarding the use of these agents in the absence of concomitant intravenous heparin have been conflicting. We sought to determine, using propensity analysis, whether the benefit of eptifibatide, a IIb/IIIa inhibitor, in the treatment of acute coronary syndromes is affected by the concurrent administration of heparin. By trial design, patients were randomized to either eptifibatide or placebo, whereas use of intravenous heparin was left to the discretion of treating physicians. The effect of eptifibatide on the 30-day composite end point of death or myocardial infarction was studied in patients who received heparin and those who did not. Propensity analysis methods were used to control for confounding and presumed selection biases. Among 5,576 patients who were receiving heparin when the bolus dose of the study drug was administered, eptifibatide was associated with a reduced composite end point rate (13%) compared with that of placebo (14.5% vs 16.6%, p = 0.03). In contrast, among 1,441 patients who were not receiving heparin, there was no difference in 30-day event rates with eptifibatide compared with placebo (13.7% vs 13.1%, p > 0.7). After a propensity score for use of heparin was developed, however, use of heparin did not affect the reduced risk associated with eptifibatide (adjusted relative risk [RR] for heparin-eptifibatide interaction term 0.90, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.61 to 1.32, p > 0.5), but the propensity for heparin use was a strong predictor of events (adjusted RR 1.76, 95% CI 1.42 to 2.17, p < 0.001). The use of eptifibatide independently predicted a lower risk of events (adjusted RR 0.31, 95% CI 0.10 to 0.93, p = 0.04). Thus, the apparent positive impact of heparin on the benefits of eptifibatide therapy was largely due to confounding and bias.
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View details for PubMedID 11230834