About a quarter of the patients who stopped taking statins cited mild side effects, the most common of which was indigestion. No specific reason for discontinuing the drug therapy was given by the other patients or their doctors.
Current practice at Duke is to prescribe statins in many cases after a stroke, Goldstein said. "A patient who has coronary heart disease or diabetes should be on a statin," he said. "If there is no known coronary heart disease, we prescribe a statin for someone whose LDL cholesterol is between 100 and 190."
The Italian study also showed an increased risk of death in stroke survivors who stopped taking an anti-clotting drug such as Plavix, Goldstein noted. Their risk of death was 80 percent higher than in patients who took the drug as prescribed.
"Discontinuing either statins or antiplatelet drugs was associated with an increase in all-cause mortality," Goldstein said.
"Effective clinical strategies are needed to bring out a significant increase in patients who maintain their drug therapies," study author Dr. Furio Colivicchi said in a statement.
Many stroke survivors are eager to stop taking the medications, said Dr. Matthew Fink, chief of the division of stroke and critical care neurology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. They generally are older people who are vulnerable to arthritis, he said.
"They have a tendency to have aches and pains, and they blame them on the statin," he said. "It's not due to the drug, but it's hard to convince them."
The two new reports both show that "most people who have had ischemic strokes should be treated with statins as part of their overall treatment," Fink said. Most strokes are ischemic, caused by blockage of a brain artery by a clot.
"The Spanish study lo
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