New Research Concludes Statin Side Effects in Question

Anti-Cholesterol Medications Better Tolerated Second Time Around

Yahoo Contributor Network

Research involving the examination of more than 107,000 patients at two Boston hospitals published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded that at least some of the side effects associated with statins may be temporary. Statins are the most widely used class of drugs to fight and control the harmful effects of cholesterol.

Discontinuation of Statins in Routine Care Settings

Researchers, performing a retrospective cohort study -- one that studies data previously obtained -- from patient data obtained from more than 107,000 patients at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital , set out to investigate the reason for the discontinuation of statin medications and what role statin medications' side effects or clinical events such as abnormal lab work had on the discontinuation of statin treatment.

What the data revealed was that more than 50 percent of those patients who had once been on statin therapy had had their statin medications discontinued at one point. In 17 percent of those had their statins discontinued by their health care provider, the drugs had been stopped due to either side effects or clinical events attributed to the statins.

More than 6,500 whose initial statin therapy had been discontinued were re-started on statin therapy within 12 months. Ninety-two percent of those who re-started statin therapy were still on it more than 12 months later, with slightly fewer than half of those who were re-started on statins being prescribed the same medication they had been taking originally and nearly one-third of the re-started statin patients were on a the same dose or higher than they had originally been prescribed.

Study authors concluded that although side effects and clinical events related to statin treatment, those episodes may be temporary, be unrelated to statin use or may be specific to a particular medication rather than the entire class of statins.

Importance of Statin Medications to Heart Health

Statins are important weapons in the control and reduction of atherosclerotic heart disease and improving the health status of those with established disease, explained Scott M. Grundy , M.D., Ph.D. in an editorial in today's Annals of Internal Medicine about the statin discontinuation research.

Grundy also explained that people who are prescribed statin therapy stop doing so for a number of reasons:

* Fear of side effects

* Perceived side effects

* Costs of the medication

* Lack of insurance coverage

* Misunderstanding the benefits of statin therapy

* Lack of commitment to treatment

* Loss to follow-up

Grundy suggested that there are two primary questions for clinicians to consider when considering adherence to statin therapy. Why do patients stop taking statin medications? In what portion of patients who stop taking statins do real side effects prevent continued therapy?

Bottom Line

Although it is important that health care providers do more to understand why important statin therapy is discontinued by patients about half the time, it is also important for those who have been prescribed a statin medication to discuss any questions or concerns they may have about the therapy with the prescribing doctor. If you've taken statins in the past and stopped doing so, ask your health care provider if re-starting statin therapy may be in your best health interests now.

View Comments