Past research has suggested that up to 46% of individuals prescribed statins for high cholesterol do not adhere to the therapy, increasing their risk of cardiovascular events. But a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) details lifestyle factors that may predict whether an individual is likely to stick to statin therapy.
Statins are a class of drugs commonly used to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood, therefore reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). They work by blocking an enzyme responsible for cholesterol production in the liver.
According to the research team, including Dr. Heli Halava of the Department of Public Health and Pharmacology at the University of Turku in Finland, a recent study found that almost 1 in 10 cardiovascular events - such as heart attack and stroke - can be attributed to nonadherence to statin therapy.
In this latest study, the investigators wanted to see whether certain lifestyle factors may influence an individual's compliance to statin therapy.
Weight issues and former smoking 'predictors of statin adherence'
The team analyzed the data of 11,949 people involved in the Finnish Public Sector Study, who began statin therapy between 1998 and 2010. Of these participants, 9,285 had completed a lifestyle questionnaire prior to starting the therapy and were included in the study.
People who were not overweight or obese and who did not have CVD or a history of smoking were less likely to adhere to statin therapy than former smokers and obese or overweight individuals, according to the researchers.
Results of the analysis revealed that people who were not overweight or obese and who did not have CVD or a history of smoking were less likely to adhere to statin therapy than former smokers and obese or overweight individuals.
Dr. Halava says it is not a surprise that individuals with cardiovascular comorbidities are more adherent to statin medication than those without such comorbidities, adding:
"Because of their increased risk of cardiovascular events, patients with comorbidities likely have a strong perception of the need for statin treatment."
Nonadherance to statin medication was also found to be more common among single people, individuals aged between 24-50 and women.
Furthermore, the team found that among individuals with cardiovascular-related ailments, those who engaged in heavy drinking or extreme drinking (defined as passing out from alcohol consumption) were more likely to be nonadherent to stain therapy, compared with nondrinkers.
The researchers hypothesize that heavy drinkers may purposely avoid the medication to avert drug-alcohol interaction, miss doses due to alcohol intoxication or may simply be less worried about missing doses.
Commenting on their overall findings, the researchers say:
"However, the observation that overweight, obesity and former smoking were predictors of better adherence in this group provides insight into mechanisms of adherence to preventive medication that deserve further study."
Earlier this year, Medical News Today reported on a study published in JAMA, which revealed how guidelines for statin use vary significantly between Europe and the US, meaning many people may not be receiving the correct treatment.
More recent research published in the journal Diabetes reveals why statins increase the risk of diabetes, which may pave the way for strategies that abolish this side effect.
Written by Honor Whiteman