In a new study, researchers found that cholesterol-lowering drugs statins could cut 50% risk of a second heart attack or stroke.
However, most patients with heart disease don’t take their drugs correctly.
The research was conducted by researchers from the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute in Salt Lake City.
Statins are a class of lipid-lowering drugs that reduce illness and death risk in people who are at high risk of heart disease.
Previous research has shown that statins are effective in lowering LDL cholesterol (‘bad’ cholesterol).
They are widely used for primary prevention in people at high risk of heart attack or stroke, as well as in secondary prevention for those who already had a heart attack or stroke.
Common side effects of statins include muscle pain. The rare but severe adverse effects include muscle damage
In the study, the team examined 5,468 patients diagnosed with heart disease between 1999 and 2013.
These patients received a statin prescription to reduce their LDL cholesterol within the first year of diagnosis.
The team examined whether or not the patients took their medication and how many major heart disease events (stroke, heart attack, or death) occurred over the next five years.
They found that patients who took statins as instructed reduced their risk of dying or having a heart attack or stroke by nearly 50%.
However, only 6% of patients followed the doctor’s instructions to take their drugs.
This is true even in people who had health insurance to cover the drug costs, and patients just didn’t take their statin medication as prescribed.
The findings also showed that 25% of patients never filled their statin prescription in the first place, and 25% didn’t fill their second one.
The team explained that there are several reasons why patients didn’t take statins correctly.
The patients might have a bias against statins or concern that they’re already taking too many medications.
They might worry about side-effects or have the wrong belief that after a few years on statins, they’re cured and don’t need to take them anymore.
The team believes the importance of taking statins could be lost in the abundance of information patients are given at discharge.
The new findings may help doctors ensure their patients to take their statins correctly.
Health education for patients needs to be provided about the importance of taking their medications as prescribed.
The leader of the study is Heidi May, Ph.D., principal investigator of the study, and cardiovascular epidemiologist at the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute.
The study was presented at the American College of Cardiology Scientific Sessions in New Orleans.
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