A 50% improvement in people sticking to long-term treatment with statins would stave off twice as many deaths from stroke and heart attack as giving the drugs to a wider range of people, suggests research published ahead of print in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), recommends that anyone with a 20% or greater chance of having a heart attack or stroke over the next 10 years should be prescribed a statin.
But only around half those prescribed these drugs to ward off cardiovascular disease are still taking them five years later, the evidence shows.
The authors say that it is not so surprising that concentrating on people at greatest risk, rather than including those at lower risk of cardiovascular disease, should yield more impressive results.
“However, the magnitude of the difference is notable,” they say. “And it serves to emphasise the need to find more effective means of increasing adherence – especially over the long term.”
And they caution that a failure to take into account the typically poorer adherence to treatment in routine practice may serve to overestimate the benefits of preventive approaches based on drugs.