Thousands of heart attack deaths would be prevented if high risk patients took higher doses of statins and adhered to the prescription advice given by their doctor, according to new research.
The researchers, from Imperial College London and the University of Leicester, estimate that 12,000 cardiovascular events including heart attacks and strokes would be averted with higher dose prescriptions and greater adherence to stain treatment.
The first of its kind study, published in JAMA, analysed patient data from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) which includes over five million records from more than 450 GP practices.
The research focused on three groups of patients at high risk of cardiovascular events: those with established heart disease; those with diabetes but no history of heart disease; and those with chronic kidney disease but no prior heart attack and stroke.
Almost 30,000 patients recently started on cholesterol lowering medications were scored using a measure which combined the intensity of treatment they received (statins alone or combined with another cholesterol-lowering drug called ezetimibe) and their adherence. Those who took their medication as prescribed 80% of the time over period were classed as ‘adherent’.
When researchers measured the relative risk reduction compared to untreated patients an average of three years after treatment, they found patients who were on the highest intensity treatment and had the highest adherence had the greatest reduction in LDL cholesterol levels and cardiovascular risk, with a 40% reduction in their risk of cardiovascular events.
By comparison, those patients on the lowest intensity treatment and with poor adherence had a risk reduction of just 5% compared to those not on medication.
'A timely reminder'
Our Medical Director, Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, said: “This is real-world evidence shows that taking your medicine as prescribed can make all the difference. If you’re taking statins, it’s essential that you continue to take them regularly, as advised by your doctor. This is even more important if you’re at high risk, which includes people who’ve already had a heart attack or stroke, or those who have inherited high cholesterol levels.
“This isn’t the first study to show how important adherence is, but it’s a timely reminder given the misinformation about statins that may stop some people from taking them as prescribed.”
“If you are concerned about taking statins, my advice is to make an appointment with your GP. This will ensure you can make an informed decision on the medication you take with the guidance of your doctor.”