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Quitting Statins Risky After Stroke

Stroke Survivors Who Stop Taking Statins Have Higher Death Rate in the Year After Stroke

By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 30, 2007 -- Continuing to take cholesterol-lowering statin drugs may help save stroke survivors' lives in the year after a stroke, according to a new Italian study.

The study tracks deaths among 631 stroke survivors treated at Rome's San Filippo Neri Hospital.

All of the patients were discharged from the hospital after their stroke treatment with prescriptions for the statin drugs Lipitor or Zocor.

Other statin drugs -- Lescol, Mevacor, Altocor, Pravachol, and Crestor -- weren't included in the study.

The researchers interviewed the patients by phone one month, six months, and one year later.

Those interviews show that within a year of being discharged from the hospital for their stroke, more than a third of the patients -- about 39% -- had quit taking their statins.

On average, patients who stopped taking statins did so within about six weeks of leaving the hospital. Older patients and women were particularly likely to quit taking statins.

It's not clear why patients quit taking statins. No major side effects were reported, and in Italy, statins only require a small co-payment through the country's national health service.

During the yearlong study, 116 patients died of any cause. Patients who quit taking statins were more than twice as likely to die during the year after stroke as those who kept taking statins.

Some patients who quit taking statins also stopped taking blood-thinning medications. Again, the reason for that isn't clear.

However, people who keep taking statins and other prescription drugs may generally be healthier and more likely to have healthy lifestyle habits, note the researchers, who included Furio Colivicchi, MD, FESC, of the hospital's cardiovascular department.

Since all of the patients were treated at one Italian hospital, the researchers don't know if their findings apply to other stroke survivors.

However, it's important for people everywhere to keep taking prescription drugs as instructed and to talk with a doctor before stopping or changing a prescribed drug.

SOURCES: Colivicchi, F. Stroke, Aug. 31, 2007; online edition. WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth: "Compare Statin Drugs." News release, American Heart Association.

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