Negative Statin News Tied to Dropped Prescriptions

Negative Statin News Tied to Dropped Prescriptions Researcher says heart benefits outweigh risk of side effects
WebMD News from HealthDay

By Amy Norton

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 2, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- News reports on the downsides of statins may push some people to stop taking the cholesterol-lowering drugs, a new study hints.

The findings, published Dec. 2 in the European Heart Journal, cannot prove that media stories drive statin users to give up their prescriptions.

Instead, Danish researchers found a broad correlation between "negative" media coverage and people's odds of quitting a statin within six months of their first prescription.

But even without a clear cause-and-effect connection, experts said it's reasonable to assume that media stories had an influence over some statin users in the study.

It rings true to Dr. Thomas Whayne Jr., of the Gill Heart Institute at the University of Kentucky.

"I've seen this happen a lot," said Whayne, who was not involved in the study. "News stories come out, and you have patients saying, 'I'm not going to take these dangerous medications.' "

Much of the negative press around statins has focused on muscle-related side effects. Most often, that means muscle pain and weakness known as myopathy, which affects roughly 10 percent of statin users, Whayne said.

Rarely, patients can develop a more severe problem called rhabdomyolysis -- a breakdown of muscle fibers that can lead to permanent kidney damage if it's not recognized.

Type 2 diabetes is another widely reported risk connected to statins, Whayne pointed out. But, he said, it's not that a statin triggers diabetes in a perfectly healthy person. Instead, it's thought the drugs may hasten diabetes onset in some people with risk factors.

And the odds appear small. One research review published in BMJ last year found that 4.9 percent of study patients given statins developed diabetes over four years, compared with 4.5 percent of patients given placebo pills.

"Statins can, of course, have side effects, and some patients can't tolerate them," Whayne said. But overall, he added, the benefits of the drugs "far outweigh" the potential risks for people at high risk of heart disease.

That kind of context can be missing in news stories on statin risks, said Dr. Borge Nordestgaard, the lead researcher on the new study and a professor at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark.

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