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Stopping Statins After Stroke Doubles Death Risk
Date:8/30/2007

Almost 40% of patients stopped taking drugs in Italian study

THURSDAY, Aug. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Stroke survivors who stopped taking cholesterol-lowering statins doubled their risk of dying in the next year compared to those who stayed on the medications, an Italian study finds.

A number of other studies have shown the benefits of using statins after a stroke, the study authors noted.

For instance, the Italian study comes on the heels of a Spanish study that found discontinuation of statin therapy by stroke patients is associated with an increased risk of death or dependency after 90 days.

The Spanish study of 89 people who had been taking statins before suffering a stroke found that 27 of the 46 patients who had an interruption of statin therapy were dead or dependent after three months, compared to only 16 of 43 who did not stop taking statins.

The American Heart Association currently recommends statin therapy after a stroke, said Dr. Larry Goldstein, director of the stroke center at Duke University. That recommendation was made before completion of a U.S. study "that showed for the first time that starting patients with no known cardiac disease after a stroke produced a significant reduction in the rate of recurrent stroke and in fatal stroke," Goldstein said.

The Italian study, by physicians at the San Filippo Neri Hospital in Rome and published in the Aug. 31 issue of Stroke, was "very well done," Goldstein said. It followed 631 stroke survivors whose average age was 70 and who had no other major illness, including heart disease. All were discharged from the hospital with orders to take a drug regimen that included statins.

But by the end of the four-and-a-half-year study, 38.9 percent of the patients had stopped taking statins, most of them quickly. The average time to discontinuation was 48.6 days.

A statistical analysis showed that discontinuing statin therap
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