NEARLY 20,000 people in Scotland will take part in a clinical trial to determine the best treatment for people who have had a heart attack.

The research is being funded by a £630,000 British Heart Foundation (BHF) grant to BHF Professor of Cardiology David Newby and his team at Edinburgh University.

At the end of the five-year trial, scientists will be able to say how long people should be prescribed blood-thinning medicines after a heart attack.

BHF says that every 20 minutes someone goes to hospital in Scotland because of a heart attack and there are more than 25,000 such hospital visits each year.

In the weeks and months after a heart attack, people are at high risk of having another. To combat this risk, doctors prescribe two anti-platelet medicines – commonly known as blood-thinning drugs. However, these treatments increase the risk of bleeding.

There is disagreement over how long patients should take these drugs. Current European guidelines recommend treatment for 12 months, but some experts believe this is too long.

The Edinburgh study will involve nearly 20,000 people in Scotland who have had a heart attack. Half of participants will be prescribed the blood-thinning medicines for 12 months, and half for just three months. Using electronic health records, the team will track how the participants are. The results of the trial could change clinical practice in the UK and beyond.

Newby said: “We really need to know how long to give these drugs as it has implications for health benefits, hazards of side-effects and overall cost of the treatment.

“We are delighted that all cardiologists across Scotland have come together to perform this trial and look forward to working in partnership with our patients to address this simple but critical question.”

James Cant, director at BHF Scotland said: “We need to find out how best to treat people who suffer a heart attack to ensure they don’t return to hospital and I’m delighted to say the BHF is funding pioneering research in Scotland’s capital that could influence medical decisions in the future at home and abroad.”