Thousands of statin users worldwide are suffering preventable heart attacks, simply because they are not complying with their treatment or are taking too low a dose, according to new research published on-line (Thursday 7 December) in European Heart Journal.
These life-saving drugs, used to lower cholesterol levels in people at risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), can only be optimally effective if patients use them properly and many are not.
That is the conclusion by the research team, who followed the prescription records of nearly 60,000 patients in the Netherlands for up to 14 years.
Dr Fernie Penning-van Beest and colleagues from the PHARMO Institute, the Utrecht Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and the Academic Hospital in Amsterdam, analysed 548,084 prescriptions of statin treatment issued over the first two years of treatment in 59,094 new users in the period January 1991-December 2004, and followed the patients until their first hospital admission for heart attack, death, or the end of the study in December 2004.
The aim was to see how effective robust statin treatment was for primary and secondary CHD in the real world' as opposed to in clinical trials. Their results enabled them to calculate the absolute number of avoidable heart attacks that occurred because patients had stopped taking their drugs or were not taking them consistently. They were also able to compare the preventive effects of different doses and types of statins.
Patients were divided into two groups those at high risk of heart attack and those at intermediate or low risk, with over a fifth of patients (12,762) considered high risk.
They found more than half of all patients (31,557) stopped taking statins within two years and only just over a third (20,883) were persistent users on a high or intermediate dose.
Among persistent users, hospital admission for heart attacks fell by nearly a third (30%) comp
Contact: Margaret Willson
European Society of Cardiology