Many patients who could benefit from statins were not using them. More than half of the patients report that they were never offered statins and the fear of side effects is one of the reason for stopping them, according to new research in the Journal of American Heart Association.
National guidelines indicates that statins can lower the risk of heart attack and stroke by lowering the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad" cholesterol). Because statins are proven effective and have a low risk of side effects, guidelines from the American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology recommend doctors use an atherosclerotic and cardiovascular disease risk calculator to give a detailed assessment of a person's 10-year risk for heart disease and to help create a personalized plan.
"We need to focus our efforts on improving how doctors identify patients who need to be on a statin, and how they present information to patients to ensure that no one is missing the opportunity to improve their heart health," said Corey Bradley, M.D., lead author of the study and a researcher at the Duke Clinical Research Institute in Durham, North Carolina.
Of the patients who declined (10.1 percent) or discontinued (30.7 percent) statins, the most common reasons given were a fear of side effects and perceived side effects. Compared with statin users, non-users were less likely to believe statins are safe.
"Although there are risks associated with statins, the public fear of side effects is out of proportion to the actual risks," said Ann Marie Navar, M.D., Ph.D., senior author of the study and assistant professor of Medicine at the Duke Clinical Research Institute. "Misconceptions about statins are everywhere and are fueled by false information on the internet. We need better tools to help combat this type of misinformation."
Despite their concerns, in the survey 59.7 percent of patients who discontinued a statin would consider retrying it.
"Physicians should not hesitate to re-approach the conversation about starting or re-trying statin therapy in patients who could benefit but are currently not on the therapy," Bradley said.