BACKGROUND: This study examines whether social and economic factors affect physician practice and attitude with regard to warfarin anticoagulation in patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation. METHODS: We identified physicians in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Prince George's County who (1) had written one or more prescriptions for a digitalis compound during the preceding year, and (2) were classified as general practitioners, family practice specialists, internists, or cardiologists. All 358 physicians fulfilling these criteria were surveyed by questionnaire. RESULTS: The overall response rate was 43%. Physicians who wrote 15% or more of their digitalis prescriptions for Medicaid patients said they used warfarin at significantly lower rates for patients with nonvalvular AF than other (66% versus 79%, P <0.01). The opposite pattern was seen with regard to aspirin. There were no significant differences in practice pattern between physicians located in urban vs. suburban counties. CONCLUSION: In our sample, self-reported anticoagulant practices for patients with nonvalvular AF were associated with the percentage of digitalis prescriptions written for Medicaid patients. In this metropolitan area, anticoagulant therapy was reportedly prescribed for approximately 75% of patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation.
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