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Many Not Adhering to Statin Regimen

Diane Fennell

May 20, 2011

The majority of people at high risk for heart disease or stroke, including those with Type 2 diabetes, are not adhering to their prescribed statin treatment regimens, according to researchers at North Carolina State University.

People with Type 2 diabetes are predisposed to having abnormal blood fat levels, putting them at higher risk of conditions such as heart disease and stroke (the leading causes of death in those with Type 2). Statins are a class of drugs that slow down the production of cholesterol, allowing the liver to clear it from the blood more effectively. Medicines in this class, including lovastatin (brand name Mevacor), pravastatin (Pravachol), simvastatin (Zocor), atorvastatin (Lipitor), fluvastatin (Lescol), and rosuvastatin (Crestor), are the first-choice treatment for lowering levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol.

Using a research model to look at people who have Type 2 diabetes, the investigators found that only 48% of people who had been prescribed one of these drugs was still taking the medicine regularly and at the prescribed dose after a year. After 10 years, only about 27% of those with a statin prescription were adhering to their treatment regimen. Among those at high risk who were taking the medicines as prescribed, the researchers found that the quality and length of life was significantly increased, by up to 1.5 quality-adjusted life years (a measure of the effect of health conditions on quality of life).

“These findings suggest that adherence-improving interventions — such as patient education or electronic reminders to take medications — can significantly improve the quality and length of life, particularly for high-risk patients,” notes study coauthor Brian Denton, MD.

If you have been prescribed a statin and you are having trouble remembering to take it (or are concerned about side effects), you should speak with your health-care provider. You’ll also want to read the article “Managing Your Medicines,” by doctor of pharmacy and certified diabetes educator Joshua J. Neumiller, for “techniques, devices, services, and other resources that can help you keep your medicines straight and take them at the right times.”

To learn more about the study, read the article “Most at-Risk Patients Don’t Adhere to Statin Treatment, Despite Real Benefits” or see the study’s abstract in the journal Medical Decision Making. And for more information on statins, click here.

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