Studies point toward patient complacency in post-heart attack regimens

By Mohamad Hamze

Statins are drugs prescribed to those classified as at-risk for heart attack or stroke in order to lower cholesterol levels in the blood. When an individual suffers a heart attack, their risk for a future heart attack or stroke increases over the course of the next year or more, further warranting their need for a statin regimen. However, even given the elevated risk, studies found that over half of heart attack survivors that were prescribed a high-intensity statin after their first incident were no longer maintaining their initial regimen. According to researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, only 42 percent of those who had been prescribed a high-intensity statin were still taking them regularly two years out from their heart attack. 13 percent were found to have switched to a medium- or low-intensity statin, 19 percent were still taking high-intensity statins but not regularly, and around 20 percent were no longer taking a statin of any kind.

Dr. Robert Rosenson of Mt. Sinai has stressed the long-term health benefits of statin use in high cardiovascular-risk individuals, and that the decrease in bodily and vascular inflammation and plaque stabilization conferred by high-intensity statin regimens are very important in the prevention of future heart attacks or strokes. Why, then, are patients not continuing with the regimens that may very well save their lives? Dr. David Pearle, a cardiologist at the MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute in Washington, D.C. explains a few possible reasons. Many patients have complained of muscle pain as a side effect of a high-intensity statin regimen, prompting their physicians to drop them to lower intensities or stop their prescriptions altogether. Also, he cites increased cost and decreased cardiologist follow-up and participation in cardiac rehabilitation clinics as factors in decreased statin use over time, implicating the need for physicians, cardiologists, and health care providers to develop more tolerable and affordable plans for patients that can persist for years following discharge.


"Many Heart Attack Patients Fail to Stick With Statins: MedlinePlus Health News."MedlinePlus. HealthDay, 19 Apr. 2017. Web.