Stroke prevention: "It is time to act"

Boehringer IngelheimLeading national patient organisations, medical and economic experts presented their initiatives on stroke prevention to European policymakers and called for a comprehensive EU strategy on cardiovascular diseases (CVD) in general, and stroke in particular with a special attention to risk factors such as atrial fibrillation (AF). Isabel de la Mata, Special Advisor on Public Health to Commissioner Dalli, also attended the lunch debate, co-hosted by Members of the European Parliament (MEP) Cecilia Wikström and Antigoni Papadopoulou.

Atrial Fibrillation (AF), one of the stroke risk factors, currently affects 4.5 million people in Europe and this number is expected to double by 2050 (1). This heart disorder increases the risk of stroke five-fold. Strokes due to AF tend to be especially severe and disabling (2) with half of patients dying within one year. (3) In the run-up to the World Health Organisation summit (4) on major non communicable diseases and in anticipation of the EU year of active ageing in 2012, patient organisations and EU decision makers from all over Europe convened today to address key challenges and initiatives in stroke prevention and its principal risk factors.

MEP Antigoni Papadopoulou (S&D, Cyprus) commented: "Whilst the European Commission currently supports 25 research projects on cardiovascular diseases (CVD) with €130 million (5), there is no coherent EU strategy to tackle CVD, no specific coordination plans between the Member States. In 2007, the European Parliament called upon the European Commission to develop a strategy (6) but not enough progress has been made so far. It is time to act. It is time for a true European strategy to combat cardiovascular diseases."

"Within the EU, patient organisations are doing tremendous work to raise awareness about the risk factors for stroke. They know the AF patients' reality and they know how essential prevention is", added MEP Cecilia Wikström (ALDE, Sweden). "This great work needs to be complemented by a comprehensive EU wide strategy which could save millions of lives."

The event in the European Parliament heard testimonials of representatives from ALICE Italia Onlus, from the Catalonian Stroke Union, the Belgian Stroke Council, Stroke Alliance for Europe, France AVC, Fédération Nationale des Aphasiques de France and Stiftung Pflegebrücke.

James Beeby, of the Stroke Alliance for Europe, recalled that "strokes are predicted to increase dramatically in Europe's ageing population. The consequences can devastate not only a person's quality of life, but also that of their families, their care-givers and, as a result, society as a whole."

This event was supported by Boehringer Ingelheim.

About Atrial Fibrillation (AF) AF is the most common sustained heart rhythm abnormality worldwide with one in four adults over the age of 40 developing AF in their lifetime.(7) AF causes the heart to beat irregularly and often too fast or too slow. People with AF are five times more likely to suffer a stroke than people without AF and AF-related strokes tend to be more severe and disabling than non AF-related strokes.(8) Many strokes can be prevented with correct management but many patients are not aware of their risk and so take no action to prevent it.

Antigoni Papadopoulou
Antigoni Papadopoulou (born 1954 in Morfou; Cyprus) is a Member of the European Parliament from Cyprus since 2009 and belongs to the Socialist and Democrat group. She is a member of the civil liberties committee and of the MEP Heart Group and a substitute member in the committee for employment and social affairs.

Cecilia Wikström
Cecilia Wikström (born 1965 in Svanstein, Sweden) is a Member of the European Parliament from Sweden, belonging to the liberal group (ALDE). She is currently serving her second term in the European Parliament. She is the committee on legal affairs and a substitute member in the committees for civil liberties and justice.

Stroke Alliance for Europe
SAFE represents a strong patient and carer voice which will call on European Governments to take the lead in making stroke prevention a health priority. SAFE members are various European patient organisations dealing with stroke prevention and care.

Boehringer Ingelheim
The Boehringer Ingelheim group is one of the world's 20 leading pharmaceutical companies. Headquartered in Ingelheim, Germany, it operates globally with 145 affiliates and more than 42,000 employees. Since it was founded in 1885, the family-owned company has been committed to researching, developing, manufacturing and marketing novel products of high therapeutic value for human and veterinary medicine.

As a central element of its culture, Boehringer Ingelheim pledges to act socially responsible. Involvement in social projects, caring for employees and their families, and providing equal opportunities for all employees form the foundation of the global operations. Mutual cooperation and respect, as well as environmental protection and sustainability are intrinsic factors in all of Boehringer Ingelheim's endeavors.

In 2010, Boehringer Ingelheim posted net sales of about 12.6 billion euro while spending almost 24% of net sales in its largest business segment Prescription Medicines on research and development.

1. Go AS, Hylek EM, Phillips KA et al. Prevalence of diagnosed atrial fibrillation in adults: national implications for rhythm management and stroke prevention: the AnTicoagulation and Risk Factors in Atrial Fibrillation (ATRIA) Study. JAMA 2001;285:2370–5
2. Lin HJ, Wolf PA, Kelly-Hayes M, et al. Stroke. Stroke 1996; 27:1760-4.
3. Marini C, De Santis F, Sacco S, et al. Stroke 2005; 36:1115-9. Miyasaka Y. et al. Circulation 2006; 114:119-125; Fuster V. et al. Circulation 2006; 114:e257-e354.
5. Within the EU 7th Framework Programme for research 2007-2013
6. European Parliament resolution of 12 July 2007 on action to tackle cardiovascular disease  P6_TA(2007)0346
7. Stewart S, Murphy N, Walker A, et al. Cost of an emerging epidemic: an economic analysis of atrial fibrillation in the UK. Heart 2004; 90:286-92
8. Lin HJ, Wolf PA, Kelly-Hayes M, et al. Stroke severity in atrial fibrillation: the Framingham study. Stroke 1996; 27:1760-4.