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Too Many Stroke Patients Go Without Statins

Nearly 1 in 5 survivors risks another attack when doctors fail to prescribe the meds, study shows

THURSDAY, May 27 (HealthDay News) -- Despite an increased likelihood that American stroke patients will be prescribed potentially life-saving statin medications when released from the hospital, more than 16 percent are still being discharged without such prescriptions in hand, a large new study reveals.

This means nearly one in five stroke patients are being unnecessarily exposed to the risk of another stroke, researchers found, despite evidence that patients who take a statin (such as Crestor, Lipitor or Zocor) reduce their chances of having a second attack.

"Approximately one in 10 stroke patients experience another stroke within a week," study lead author Dr. Bruce Ovbiagele, an associate professor of neurology and director at the UCLA Stroke Prevention Program, UCLA Stroke Center and Department of Neurology, noted in a news release "The hospital encounter provides a window of opportunity to ensure prompt and appropriate initiation of treatments, such as statins, that could prevent another stroke."

The current snapshot of statin prescription patterns is based on 2005 to 2007 data concerning more than 173,000 stroke patients who were hospitalized across the United States.

The authors found that the number of patients being prescribed statin medications did increase during the study period, rising from just under 76 percent to nearly 85 percent.

However, Ovbiagele lamented that a significant portion are not getting the medicines they need and therefore face unnecessary risk of a recurring stroke. He also noted that some types of patients as well as those in certain locations were much less likely to be prescribed the drug than others.

"For instance, women had 13 percent lower odds of receiving a statin compared to men," he wrote, "while hospitals in the South had 34 percent lower odds of discharging a stroke patient on a statin compared to hospitals in the West."

Ovbiagele and his team report their findings May 27 online in the current issue of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

More information

For more on stroke treatment, visit the American Heart Association.

-- Alan Mozes

SOURCE: Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, May 27, 2010, news release.

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