A new study found that negative news about statins is linked to prescription reduction and increased risks of developing heart attacks.

Statins, which are cholesterol-lowering medications, are considered to be one of the safest drugs in the world. Experts, however, acknowledge that initiation of treatment may result in side effects that can go from mild such as muscle aches to severe such as rhabdomyolysis. Such effects may warrant clinicians to halt patients from statin therapy.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark theorize that exposure to both negative and positive news pertaining to statins during the early stage of treatment may influence patients' decisions to go on or stop the drug treatment.

In a new study, Sune Fallgaard Nielsen and Børge Grønne Nordestgaard investigated 674,900 people aged 40 years old and above who were asked to go on an initial statin therapy from 1995-2010. The researchers monitored and followed them up until Dec. 31, 2011.

The findings of the study showed that news stories that tackled statins, whether these were positive, negative or neutral, increased from 30 to 300 between 1995-2010.

The researchers also found that the utilization of statins rose from less than 1 percent in 1995 to 11 percent in 2010. Despite the increase, the authors also found that patients who discontinued the drug also rose from 6 percent to 18 percent.

The risk of discontinuing statin therapy upon hearing a negative news story about the drug showed a 1.3 percent higher rate compared to those who were not exposed to a negative story.

The authors also discovered that patients who halted their therapy had a 26 percent increased risk of developing a heart attack and an 18 percent rise in the risk of death due to heart disease.

Positive news stories about statins were related to a 5.3 percent lower risk of premature drug discontinuation. The risk of developing heart disease and diabetes in these people also followed the same downward trend.

Nordestgaard said the combined results of the study signify that negative statin news can lead to serious illnesses for those who were persuaded to stop the drug.

"You need doctors to understand when there is negative media to explain to patients the benefits of using this medication outweighing the negative effects they read about in the newspaper yesterday," he advised.

The study was published in the European Heart Journal on Wednesday, Dec. 2.

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