Statins debate linked to rise in patients stopping treatment

28 June 2016        

Category: BHF Comment


Intense media coverage of statins has led to an increase in people not taking the medication, research has discovered.

We funded a study at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine which showed that there was an 11% to 12% increase in people stopping taking their statins for heart attack or stroke prevention or treatment during periods of intense media coverage.

This effect lasted for around six months before the numbers of people who stopped taking statins fell back to pre-media coverage levels.The study lasted from January 2011 to March 2015.

Older patients and those who had been taking statins for longer were more likely to stop taking their statins.

Statins are safe and effective

Professor Peter Weissberg, our Medical Director, said: “There is no debate that patients who have suffered a heart attack or stroke should be taking statins to reduce their risk of another cardiovascular event. Evidence from numerous objective clinical trials also shows that statins are a safe and effective way of reducing risk of someone suffering a heart attack or stroke in the first place.

“It is absolutely vital that medical practice is guided by evidence, rather than strongly held personal opinions. This study shows that confidence in the evidence can be shaken by opinions published in the mainstream media and medical press and points to an important and complex relationship between doctors, patients and the media. “No one should stop taking their statin without first discussing it with their GP.”

Perception of statins

We also commissioned a separate report, undertaken by Picker Institute Europe, which explored patients’, GPs’ and cardiologists’ perceptions of statins, and the extent to which these perceptions influence their attitudes and behaviours.

The report found that media coverage about statins was associated with a number of patients being less likely to take their statin treatment.

It also found that patients’ compliance is affected by a wide range of factors such as confidence and trust in their GP.

Dr Mike Knapton, our Associate Medical Director, said: “This report investigated the attitudes and behaviour of patients, GPs and cardiologists to prescribing and taking statins.

“Patients should be informed about the benefits and risks of any treatment which is why the relationship with their doctor is vitally important.

“Evidence from numerous objective clinical trials also shows that statins are very safe and effective and can reduce the risk of someone suffering a heart attack or stroke."