Objectives: To describe the adoption and take up of thrombolytic agents for acute myocardial infarction since 1980 in England and compare use with the estimated ceiling of need.
Methods: Data on national sales and use of thrombolysis since 1980 (supplied by IMS Health) was used to draw an adoption and diffusion curve. The epidemiological ceiling of acute myocardial infarction, from hospital activity statistics, was modified to an estimated clinical need by accounting for diagnostic difficulty and contraindications using information from published surveys of thrombolysis use in the United Kingdom.
Results: There was a rapid uptake of thrombolytic agents in the first 2 years after availability in 1987, then a plateau, followed by a rise to a peak use in 1995. The shortfall in doses resulting from the difference between estimated ceiling of clinical need and doses purchased and provided in the 14 years since availability is estimated as 167,800 (95 percent confidence range 94,000 to 241,700).
Conclusions: Although there was a rapid initial uptake of thrombolysis in England, usage took 8 years to reach the ceiling of clinical need of 65 percent of patients with acute myocardial infarction, with many patients missing the opportunity to benefit. Monitoring of uptake of innovations known to be cost-effective is required to identify those developments that need additional stimulus for change to ensure that patients do not miss out on the opportunity to benefit.