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New study finds heart attack prevention drug less effective in South Asian communities

Researchers at Queen Mary University say the findings will lead to better treatment for cardiovascular disease among East London’s South Asian population.

A new study by researchers at Queen Mary University of London has found that a commonly prescribed medication used to prevent heart attacks is much less likely to benefit people of Bangladeshi and Pakistani ancestry, compared to people of European descent.

The study was supported by funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Barts Biomedical Research Centre and Barts Charity. It highlights the importance of understanding the varied impacts of treatments, particularly commonplace ones, on ethnically diverse groups. 

The drug in question, Clopidogrel, is a commonly prescribed medication used to prevent heart attacks after an initial event. It needs to be activated by enzymes in the body to be effective, but not everyone is able to activate the drug. 

Studies of European populations show that 30% of individuals have genetic variants that reduce or prevent the activation of the drug. 

In comparison, out of 44,396 people with Bangladeshi and Pakistani ancestry who took part in the study, 57% of participants could not activate Clopidogrel.

This study highlights the importance of using genetics to determine who can benefit from clopidogrel after a heart attack, and how not doing so is likely to disproportionately disadvantage specific groups, such as South Asians.

Dr Emma Magavern

Additionally, the study found that genetic variants that render clopidogrel ineffective are linked with a higher risk of having another heart attack in people prescribed clopidogrel.

The findings are particularly relevant to our local population in Tower Hamlets, where the Bangladeshi community is by far the largest in the country, making up 34.6% of the borough’s population. The Pakistani community accounts for an additional 1% of Tower Hamlets’ population. 

Dr Emma Magavern, lead author and clinical doctor and researcher at Queen Mary University of London, said: ‘This study highlights the importance of using genetics to determine who can benefit from clopidogrel after a heart attack, and how not doing so is likely to disproportionately disadvantage specific groups, such as South Asians.

Fiona Miller Smith, Chief Executive of Barts Charity, said: ‘We are committed to funding health research that leads to better healthcare for all in our diverse East London population

‘With high rates of cardiovascular disease in the East London South Asian community, we are therefore pleased to see the outcomes of this important study which will lead to more effective treatment for this group.’

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