Cholesterol drugs less effective in real world

Monday, November 12, 2001

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Two-thirds of people taking widely prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs do not get as much benefit as drug company statements suggest they should, a study found.

Although the reasons for this are not entirely clear, researchers suspect a simple answer: Patients do not take their pills as diligently as they should.

"It's extremely difficult to get people to do anything on a routine basis," said lead investigator Dr. Dennis L. Sprecher, whether it's taking pills, eating healthier food or getting more exercise.

All of these things can help people bring down dangerously high cholesterol levels.

However, over the past decade, cholesterol-lowering drugs have become an increasingly important part of this combination as research demonstrates how they ward off heart attacks and death.

Real-life results

These benefits of the pills, known collectively as statins, have been proven in carefully conducted large studies. Sprecher and colleagues at the Cleveland Clinic set out to learn whether they work as well in ordinary practice as they do in those formal experiments.

He presented his results Sunday at the opening of the American Heart Association's annual scientific meeting in Anaheim. They were based on a follow up of 375 patients who began statin treatment at the Cleveland Clinic.

The doctors checked whether the prescriptions had lowered the patients' levels of LDL, the bad kind of cholesterol that increases the risk of heart trouble.

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