'Statins' is the group term for some drugs prescribed to lower cholesterol, thereby reducing chances of stroke, heart attacks, angina and other heart diseases.However, according to a new study that was published in BMJ Open, so many stroke patients are ditching the drugs due to either their own experiences of side effects – like anxiety, insomnia, tiredness, and aches – and influences from negative media coverage, among other reasons.
Stroke survivors stand a higher chance of another attack, which is more likely to cause disability or death, compared to the first one.As indicated by statistics, a third of stroke cases appear in individuals who have suffered from the condition previously.
This high risk of stroke recurrence is the reason why patients are prescribed with secondary preventive medications such as atorvastatin, simvastatin, pravastatin, and rosuvastatin.Researchers say that these drugs are capable of reducing the risk of further stroke by about 75 percent.Nevertheless, adherence has become a big issue, with up to 30 percent of patients reporting to have failed to keep up with the prescription.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge and Queen Mary University London (QMUL) analyzed posts from TalkStroke (a UK-based online assembly run by the Stroke Association) to determine the barriers to taking these medications.The online forum was used by stroke patients, survivors, and their care givers, and had posts cutting over a seven-year period.
The team of medical researchers was led by Dr.Anna De Simoni, QMUL’s lecturer of Primary Care Research, and guest researcher at Cambridge University in the Department of Public Health and Primary Care.The team was not new to using the online forum in their studies.They had previously benefited from it in evaluating other stroke related issues – such as the impairments that can interfere with the work of stroke survivors.
The Stroke Association allowed the researchers to analyze the data but not to give away the identities of individuals.They assessed information posted by 84 participants.Among them, 49 stroke survivors and 33 caregivers.
According to study’s results, the primary reason why the forum’s users chose to ditch the medications was the side effects they experienced.Several study subjects confessed that they had stopped using their drugs after experiencing adverse side effects.Some of them consulted their General Physician (GP) before deciding, while others made it autonomously.In some cases, the users said that they or the person they were caring for had ceased taking the medicines after finding out about their side effects through the press and social media.
The researching team also reported that other contributors expressed concerns over the medication they were given, resulting in conflicting views – while some of them believed in the efficacy of the prescription, others had the opinion that the risks involved could be avoided through lifestyle and diet changes only.
Users also exhibited mixed feelings about their healthcare professionals – some were satisfied with their GP’s services while their counterparts questioned the doctor’s decisions or motivation for prescribing specific drugs.
Besides the issue of side effects and media influence, there were also other practical barriers to adherence.For instance, some conversations indicated that either the cost of medication was too high or the pills were too big to swallow.Patients had to change their expenditure or develop routines and strategies to ensure they kept up with the costs.In one case, a survivor said they had to put it on credit card because they were unable to work and had limited funds coming in.
According to Dr.De Simoni, the study results are an indication of the need for improvements in the honesty of dialogues between patients, their caregivers, and healthcare professionals. She advises doctors to listen to the concerns of their patients, discuss the risks and benefits of whatever medication they prescribe and be supportive of their patient’s informed choice to accept or reject medicines.Her advice to patients who experience side effects is that they remember there are multiple treatment options and sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error to find the right one.
Alexis Wieroniey, who is the deputy director of policy and influencing at the Stroke Association, observed that statins save well over 7,000 lives every year, in the UK only. “It is vital,” she said, “that those who could benefit from statins are identified and treated.”
Both medical professionals and patients should work together to find a solution whenever stroke patients are uncomfortable with their prescribed medication.Patients are at risk after they have stopped taking their prescriptions instead of seeking the advice of doctors. More so, patients need to understand that there are alternatives to most prescription medication.GPs have a responsibility to make patients aware of the treatment options available and make follow-ups with their patients when changing treatments caused by side effects.