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Effective Health Care Program

Development of Statistical Estimators to Address Questions of Comparative Effectiveness in Elderly Heart Failure Patients

Research Report

Findings from this study were published in the following journal article.

Kramer JM, Curtis LH, Dupree CS, Pelter D, Hernandez A, Massing M, and Anstrom KJ. Comparative Effectiveness of Beta-Blockers in Elderly Patients With Heart Failure. Arch Intern Med. 2008 Dec; 168 (22): 2422- 2428.



Whether beta-blockers (BBs) other than carvedilol, metoprolol succinate, and bisoprolol fumarate (evidence-based beta-blockers [EBBBs]) improve survival in patients with heart failure (HF) is unknown. We compared the effectiveness of EBBBs vs non-EBBBs on survival.


Our study population included North Carolina residents at least 65 years old who were eligible for Medicare and Medicaid with pharmacy benefits and had had at least 1 hospitalization for HF during the period 2001 through 2004. Primary outcome was survival from 30 days to 1 year. Secondary outcomes included number and days of rehospitalizations for HF and number of outpatient visits. Cohorts were defined by BB class (EBBBs, non-EBBBs, or no BBs) in first 30 days after discharge from index hospitalization for HF. Outcomes were analyzed using inverse probability-weighted (IPW) estimators with propensity score adjustment.


Of 11,959 patients, 40% were nonwhite, 79% were female, and 26% were at least 85 years old. Fifty-nine percent received no BB, 23% received EBBBs, and 18% received non-EBBBs. One-year adjusted mortality rates were 28.3% (no BBs), 22.8% (non-EBBBs), and 24.2% (EBBBs). The IPW-adjusted comparisons of 1-year mortality outcomes for either non-EBBBs or EBBBs compared with no BBs were statistically significant (P = .002 for both), but there was no statistical difference between the 2 BB groups (P = .43). The IPW-adjusted mean numbers of rehospitalizations for HF were 0.33 (no BBs), 0.29 (non-EBBBs), and 0.41 (EBBBs), with statistically more rehospitalizations in patients receiving EBBBs compared with no BBs (P = .002) and with non-EBBBs (P < .001).


In this elderly population, the comparative effectiveness of EBBBs vs non-EBBBs was similar for 1-year survival, whereas the rehospitalization rate was higher for patients receiving EBBBs.