NEW ORLEANS — Elderly smokers who were discharged from the hospital after having a heart attack rarely filled prescriptions for medications that might help them quit smoking. That was despite being counseled about the need to quit during their hospital stay.

According to a preliminary study of nearly 2,400 heart attack survivors, who were older than 65 and current or recent smokers, at 377 U.S. hospitals, 96 percent received smoking cessation counseling before discharge.

But only 9.8 percent filled a prescription for the smoking cessation medications bupropion or varenicline within 90 days after discharge. Only 13 percent filled a prescription for these medications within one year after being hospitalized for heart attack.

Whites and women were more likely to use smoking cessation drugs within 90 days after hospitalization for a heart attack.

Being older and having had a previous procedure to increase blood flow to the heart were factors that made it less likely that patients would use bupropion or varenicline within 90 days after being discharged from the hospital for a heart attack.

There remains a great deal of room for improvement in intensifying smoking cessation interventions during and after a patient’s hospital stay for a heart attack, researchers said.