4 reasons why you should fill that statin prescription
Despite statins’ ability to reduce heart attack risk, only 6 percent of patients who are prescribed the cholesterol-lowering drug take them appropriately, a recent study says.
“There are definitely a lot of people who should be taking a statin who aren’t for various reasons,” said Megan Titas, MD, a cardiologist based at the Cape Cod Healthcare Cardiovascular Centers in Falmouth and Sandwich.
The study was done by the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute in Salt Lake City and was presented at the American College of Cardiology Scientific Sessions in March. It found that 25 percent of patients never filled their initial statin prescription and another 25 percent didn’t fill their second one. Many others didn’t properly adhere to their prescription.
The same study showed that statins nearly cut in half the chances of a second heart attack or other cardiovascular event.
“The data is good behind it,” said Dr. Titas. “It can really prevent you from having a problem in the future.”
Statins lower LDL cholesterol (“think L for lethal,” said Dr. Titas), or bad cholesterol. They are prescribed to people who have had a cardiac event or at high risk of one, due to high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes or a family history.
Dr. Titas explained some of the reasons why many patients don’t use statins appropriately.
“I’ve found there’s a lot of misinformation and pseudoscience about statins on the Internet. The medical community needs to be better about getting good information out there,” she said.
“I tell people to read Consumer Reports, which has had several articles about statins in the last few years. Just Google ‘Consumer Reports and statins.’ It’s good information for the layperson. It’s not too technical, and a lot of people trust Consumer Reports.”
Taking too many medications
Many patients hold off on the statin prescription because they feel they are taking too many medications.
“I can understand that, but I tell people there are some medicines that are more important than others,” Dr. Titas said. “When this question comes up, I tell people, ‘There’s no magical medication out there, but this one has very strong data behind it.
“I go over medicines at every visit, because I agree there are a lot of medicines out there, and you always have to evaluate, ‘Does somebody need to be on these things?’ The other thing I tell them is, ‘If you have a heart attack or stroke, you’re likely to be on many more medications than people who avoid those events.’”
“Any medicine, even over-the-counter things such as aspirin, has side effects. The reason I like the Consumer Reports article is it goes over what side effects some people can experience,” she said. “However, statins are very safe. Yes, some of my patients do have some side effects, and that's why we follow up when we start you on one of these medicines. It’s not like, ‘Here. Take this. We’ll see you in a year.’
“Maybe we can try a different statin; there are so many different ones out there now. We can normally find something that will work for you. If you keep the lines of communication open, there’s less fear and better understanding. “
“After a couple of years, some people think they’re cured, so they stop taking statins,” Dr. Titas said. “People forget how much pain they were in or they forget how fearful they were. People need to have good communication with their healthcare providers about discontinuing statins because, if anything, risk typically goes up with age.”