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In The Press

From the daily Telegraph 22nd May 2018



Statin patients fear GPs are paid to hand them out

Survey finds those at risk of heart disease 'mistrust’ doctors' motives  and fail to take their drugs.

By Henry Bodkin


Patients at risk of heart disease are failing to take satins because they worry GPs are being paid to hand them  out, researchers have said. A study found-mistrust- over doctors' motivations was reducing uptake of the potentially life-saving drug.  NHS bosses offer GP practices financial incentives to boost the rate at patients given the cholesterol lowering medication. It follows a decrease in prescribing after controversy over the safety and efficacy of statins. But studies have shown that, once prescribed the drugs, adherence among patients who have not yet had a cardiovascular scare can be as low as 57 per cent.


The research published In the British Journal of General Practice,  analysed surveys comprising 888 patients in eight countries, including the UK.   It found a widely held belief among  British patients that GPs have a tendency to over-prescribe statins leading to suspicion over whether they  personally needed the drugs. The qualitative study found patients were reluctant to stay on courses of statins because they feared it was the end of their healthy life even when they were showing no symptoms of disease. Under current guidelines set out by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Statins should be recommended to patients judged to have 10% risk of developing cardiovascular disease within a decade.


The threshold was hard from 20% in 2014 and was backed up with financial incentives under the Quality and Outcomes Framework, leading some experts to complain that it gave GPs no latitude to recommend lifestyle changes before prescribing statins. The watchdog also faced criticism including from the Royal College of GPs than millions of healthy patients were qualified to Statins simply by virtue of their age. The RJGP study found the perception that GPs were overprescribing “may partly be driven by the media coverage of the Quality and Outcomes Framework” Its authors said GPs needed to overcome patient scepticism by explaining it's benefits.

Prof Helen Stokes – Lampard, chairman of the Royal College of GPs said: “it’s understandable that patients have concerns about … Statins given the controversy that has surrounded them in the media… There is high – quality, recent, research that demonstrates they are safe and effective drugs were prescribed and monitored appropriately and that in most cases where adverse side effects are seen, these are reversible by stopping taking Statins or switching to an alternative drug.” Despite the national drive to put more people on statins, research at 250 GP practices last year found that the proportion of patients on the drugs who are at the highest risk of heart disease is actually shrinking.

Comment by the author of the booklet: Once again we are obliged to state that the adverse side-effects of the drug are understated. It is highly unlikely that the sole reason people would abandon a drug which they had been told could save their lives simply because they found out that doctors were being paid to subscribe them. Indeed the fact that doctors are paid to subscribe them raises serious questions about the drugs themselves. Why should a doctor be paid extra to prescribe a drug for a patient? Could it be that the patients have heard of a great deal about unacceptable side effects and very little about people benefiting from the use of Statins. A report by the Institute of Medical Sciences discussed in “The Statin Controversy and how to resolve it” suggests that patients have more confidence in their relatives or friends than they do in their doctor. Their relatives and friends would surely be telling them about unacceptable side effects of statin drugs, rather than complaining that doctors are being paid to prescribe them.

@2018 by The Statin Controversy