‘Get Smart About AFIB’ - a new cardiac awareness campaign aiming to tackle the rising challenge of a heart rhythm condition across Ireland

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Dublin, Ireland – Nov. 11, 2020 – ‘Get Smart About AFIB’ is a new public health campaign developed to address the escalating epidemic of atrial fibrillation (AF), which has doubled in prevalence over the past decade and is predicted to rise by a further 70% by 2030.1 The campaign aims to generate awareness, improve knowledge and encourage better detection of AF, an often silent and potentially life-threatening condition that affects more than 40,000 people in Ireland aged over 50.2 

The initiative is being spearheaded by Arrythmia Alliance and Biosense Webster, part of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies (J&J), to tackle the challenge of AF, now recognised as a major public health condition with high comorbidity, increased mortality and soaring healthcare costs.3 

The campaign aims to provide educational materials to doctors, both primary care providers and cardiologists, to support their work in detecting and diagnosing AF. A campaign website, www.getsmartaboutAFIB.ie, houses a range of information and resources for both healthcare professionals (HCPs) and patients, to support education and detection. Here, HCPs can access relevant information based on guidelines for managing AF, as well as download risk assessment tools for their patients. The platform will provide HCPs and patients with a useful and easily accessible information resource at a time when access and contact may be limited due to COVID-19. 

Trudie Loban MBE, Founder & CEO of Arrythmia alliance & AF Association, who is supporting the new campaign, said, “In Ireland, we are seeing more and more cases of AF year on year with 1 in 4 people over the age of 50 being at risk for developing the condition.⁴ While this is partly due to our ageing population, we are also seeing a higher prevalence of risk factors for developing AF, such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity.5-7 We hope that through initiatives like ‘Get Smart About AFIB’ we will help detect cases of AF-related stroke or heart failure, giving sufferers the potential for much better outcomes.  

“There are patient resources available that give information on the symptoms of AF and the importance of regularly checking the pulse to detect any abnormality in the heart rhythm, whether it’s too fast, too slow, or irregular. Importantly, it will highlight that any concerns should be discussed with a doctor. The general population will be directed to the campaign website, www.getsmartaboutAFIB.ie, to learn about pulse detection methods, common symptoms and to download supporting tools, educational materials and questionnaires.” 

AF has risen rapidly in prevalence across Europe, affecting over 11 million people (40,000 in Ireland), and costing European healthcare systems up to €3.286 billion annually.8-12 Europe is predicted to see the highest increases in cases compared to other regions globally.1  

AF can cause debilitating symptoms such as breathlessness, palpitations and chest pains which may significantly impact patients’ quality of life.1,13 It also increases the risk of more serious conditions such as heart failure and stroke and can also result in sudden death.14,15 Up to 30% of all strokes are AF-related and are often more severe, or even fatal, than non-AF related strokes1,15. ‘Silent AF’, where the patient experiences no apparent symptoms, affects up to 30% of people and remains a clinical challenge.13,15 These cases need to be uncovered either through health screening or through a patient’s own pulse check. AF is then confirmed by a physician, most commonly through an ECG test.  

Patrizio Fatale, General Manager, Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Ireland, says, “Our report ‘The Burden of Atrial Fibrillation’ is a detailed analysis of the scale and impact of atrial fibrillation across Europe. It highlights the significant effect of AF on patients’ quality of life as well as the escalating economic burden of AF on the healthcare system. This new campaign aims to work with our medical communities to help them detect more patients earlier, in order to address both of these major challenges”. 

In most cases, primary care doctors are the first point of contact for a patient with suspected AF. Screening asymptomatic patients in primary care is a proposed way of reducing the burden of stroke and by identifying those who would benefit from prophylactic anticoagulation therapy.7 The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) guidelines recommend opportunistic screening for people over 65 years (for example during routine blood pressure monitoring) by pulse taking or through an ECG test.13 Both systematic and opportunistic screening can increase the rate of detection of new AF cases in patients over 65 years in a primary care setting and is cost-effective in elderly populations.5,15

When AF is diagnosed there is a range of management and treatment options available which also include stroke prevention therapies, heart rate and rhythm control drugs. Non-drug intervention, using catheter ablation, has become a more widely performed procedure to prevent recurrent AF.15,17 

“For over 20 years, Biosense Webster has pioneered the development of medical procedures to treat AF and through our partnerships, with both the medical and patient community we aim to deliver on our promise to heal the hearts of thousands of patients,” explains Alenka Brzulja, Vice President, Cardiovascular & Specialty Solutions (CSS) Group EMEA. “J&J has entered into partnerships and initiatives worldwide to support AF detection, evidence generation and dissemination on the burden of disease. We need to continue our urgent focus on this rising epidemic of atrial fibrillation and are proud to be launching this new campaign which aims to tackle this public health challenge head on.” 

More details 

#AFSmart: New campaign launched @BiosenseWebster & @KnowYourPulse to address the rising challenge of atrial fibrillation (AF) across Ireland - an escalating public health challenge projected to increase by 70% by 2030.  

The campaign website: http://www.getsmartaboutafib.ie 

 

For further information please contact: 

Jennifer Gleeson – T: +353 87 7945882, E: [email protected] 

Dernagh O’Leary – T: +353 83 391 1504, E: dernagh.o’[email protected] 

 

Note to editors 

About Atrial Fibrillation 
Atrial fibrillation (AF or AF) is the most common form of cardiac arrhythmia and is characterised by an irregular and often fast heartbeat that results in uncoordinated contraction of the top two chambers of the heart (i.e. atria).16 It occurs when there is a fault in the electrical activity of the heart, causing the heart to beat in an irregular and uncoordinated fashion.17 It is typically a progressive condition, with 1 in 5 progressing from paroxysmal (intermittent) to persistent (constant) AF within 1 year.18 The symptoms of AF can have a devastating impact on those affected, with up to 47% of patients experiencing a reduction in their overall quality of life.19-21 

About Arrythmia Alliance  

Arrythmia Alliance is working together to improve the diagnosis, treatment and quality of life for all those affected by arrhythmias. A-A is a coalition of charities, patient groups, patients, carers, medical groups and allied professionals. Although these groups remain independent, they work together under the A-A umbrella to promote timely and effective diagnosis and treatment of arrhythmias. 
Learn more at https://www.heartrhythmalliance.org/ and connect on LinkedIn and Twitter

About Biosense Webster, Inc. 

Biosense Webster, Inc., is the global market leader in the science and technology behind the diagnosis and treatment of cardiac arrhythmias. Part of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies, the specialized medical-technology company is headquartered in Irvine, Ca., and works across the world to advance the tools and solutions that help electrophysiologists identify, treat, and deliver care. Learn more at www.biosensewebster.com and connect on LinkedIn and Twitter

About the Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies 

As the world’s most comprehensive medical devices business*, we are building on a century of experience, merging science and technology, to shape the future of health and benefit even more people around the world. With our unparalleled breadth, depth and reach across surgery, orthopaedics and interventional solutions, we’re working to profoundly change the way care is delivered. We are in this for life. For more information, visit www.jnjmedicaldevices.com

*Comprising the surgery, orthopaedics, and interventional solutions businesses within the Johnson & Johnson’s Medical Devices segment 

 

References 

  1. Zoni-Berisso M, Lercari F, Carazza T, Domenicucci S (2014) Epidemiology of atrial fibrillation: European perspective. Clin Epidemiol 6 213-220. 
  2. Mater Private Hospital (2020) Atrial Fibrilliation Booklet (2020). Last accessed October 2020. Available from https://www.materprivate.ie/dublin/centre-services/all-services/arrhythmia-clinic/Mater-Private-Atrial-Fibrillation-Booklet-Arrhythmia-Clinic.pdf
  3. Schnabel R, Pecen L, Engler D, Lucerna M, Sellal JM et al. (2018) Atrial fibrillation patterns are associated with arrhythmia progression and clinical outcomes. Heart 104 (19): 1608-1614.  
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  16. Boriani G, Laroche C, Diemberger I, Fantecchi E, Popescu MI et al. (2015) Asymptomatic atrial fibrillation: clinical correlates, management, and outcomes in the EORP-AF Pilot General Registry. Am J Med 128 (5): 509-518 e502. 
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  21. Dorian P, Jung W, Newman D, Paquette M, Wood K et al. (2000) The impairment of health-related quality of life in patients with intermittent atrial fibrillation: implications for the assessment of investigational therapy. J Am Coll Cardiol 36 (4): 1303-1309. 
  22. Van den Berg MP, Hassink RJ, Tuinenburg AE, van Sonderen EF, Lefrandt JD et al. (2001) Quality of life in patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation and its predictors: importance of the autonomic nervous system. Eur Heart J 22 (3): 247-253. 
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