Why do so many Americans stop taking lifesaving statins?


Statins are a widely prescribed class of drugs used to reduce cholesterol and prevent the risk of heart attack and stroke, but they’re not without controversy.

Nearly half of patients reportedly give up on these medications within a year, often due to side effects, NBC News reported.

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What happens when people stop taking statins

According to GoodRx, the generic version of Lipitor (atorvastatin) can cause muscle pain, headaches, nausea and may affect blood sugar levels. However, millions of people take statins every day and have no side effects at all.

A study recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine looked at what happens to patients who discontinue statin treatment. Among 28,266 study patients, 19,989 (70%) continued taking statins after experiencing a side effect. About four years later, 3,677 of the study patients had either died or suffered a heart attack or stroke.

Researchers said there was a 1.7% difference in negative outcomes between the two groups. Reuters reported that people who stopped taking statins after a possible side effect were 13% more likely to die or have a heart attack or stroke compared to people who kept taking their medication.

But if continued statin use after a side effect is associated with a lower rate of death and cardiovascular events, why are many people fearful of the drugs? Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Dr. Steven Nissen submitted an editorial on this issue and wrote that an “internet cult” has convinced the public that statins are bad, CNN reported. He added that doctors must make it clear to patients that discontinuing statin treatment could be a “life-threatening mistake.”

If you’re experiencing side effects from a statin or any other type of drug, call your doctor before you stop taking the pill. Your physician may be able to adjust your dosage or switch you to a different medication.

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