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Allopurinol and the risk of atrial fibrillation in the elderly: a study using Medicare data
  1. Jasvinder A Singh1,2,3,
  2. Shaohua Yu2
  1. 1Medicine Service, Birmingham VA Medical Center, Birmingham, Alabama, USA
  2. 2Department of Medicine at School of Medicine, and Division of Epidemiology at School of Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), Birmingham, Alabama, USA
  3. 3Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jasvinder A Singh, University of Alabama, Faculty Office Tower 805B, 510 20th Street S, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA;{at}


Objective To assess the effect of allopurinol use on the risk of incident atrial fibrillation (AF) in the elderly.

Methods We used the 5% random Medicare Claims data from 2006 to 2012 to examine the association of allopurinol use and incident AF in a cohort of patients with an absence of AF at baseline (at least 365 days). Multivariable-adjusted Cox regression analyses compared allopurinol exposed and non-exposed periods for the risk of AF, controlling for age, sex, race, Charlson–Romano comorbidity index and use of statins, diuretics, ACE inhibitors and β-blockers. HR with 95% CIs was calculated. Sensitivity analyses considered a longer baseline period (365 days vs 183 days) and individual comorbidities.

Results There were 9244 episodes of incident allopurinol use in 8569 beneficiaries, of which 1366 episodes (14.8%) had incident AF. In multivariable-adjusted analyses, allopurinol use was associated with an HR of 0.83 (95% CI 0.74 to 0.93) for incident AF. In a separate multivariable-adjusted model, compared with no allopurinol use, longer allopurinol use durations were associated with a lower HR of AF: 180 days–2 years, 0.85 (95% CI 0.73 to 0.99) and >2 years, 0.65 (95% CI 0.52 to 0.82). Other factors significantly associated with a higher hazard of AF were: age 75–<85 years and ≥85 years, higher Charlson index score and current β-blocker use. Sensitivity analyses confirmed these findings with minimal/no attenuation of HRs.

Conclusions Allopurinol use was associated with a reduced risk of incident AF in the elderly, especially its use for >6 months duration. Future studies should assess the mechanisms underlying this beneficial effect of allopurinol.

  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Epidemiology
  • Health services research

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