Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Stopping statins may benefit terminally ill patients

Date:
May 30, 2014
Source:
Duke Medicine
Summary:
People in the late stages of cancer and other terminal illnesses are not only unharmed by discontinuing statins for cholesterol management, they may benefit, according to a study. The finding addresses a thorny question in treating people with life-limiting illnesses: When, if ever, is it appropriate to discontinue medications prescribed for other conditions that will likely not lead to their death?

People in the late stages of cancer and other terminal illnesses are not only unharmed by discontinuing statins for cholesterol management, they may benefit, according to a study presented Friday by researchers at Duke Medicine representing a national research network.

The finding addresses a thorny question in treating people with life-limiting illnesses: When, if ever, is it appropriate to discontinue medications prescribed for other conditions that will likely not lead to their death?

In an analysis presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago, the researchers reported that discontinuing statins in patients with advanced illnesses resulted in improved overall quality of life, lower costs and no increased deaths. In fact, the patients who stopped taking statins appeared to live slightly longer.

“When you look at the number of medications people take when they are dying, it doubles in the last year of life,” said lead author Amy Abernethy, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for Learning Health Care at the Duke Clinical Research Institute and a member of the Duke Cancer Institute. Abernethy represented the Palliative Care Research Cooperative Group, a national research network focused on improving care for people with serious illnesses.

“Cancer patients, for example, take medications for pain, nausea and other problems associated with advanced disease,” Abernethy said. “Many don’t have an appetite, and simply swallowing medications can be a problem. So the issue is whether some longstanding medications such as cholesterol-lowering drugs might be safely discontinued, but there has been little research to help guide clinicians in making that recommendation.”

Abernethy said the researchers identified statins as a good candidate to explore the issue, because the drug is widely prescribed and benefits can take years to accrue. Other drugs the researchers could eventually study include medications for blood pressure and blood clots.

In their study of statins, Abernethy and colleagues enrolled 381 patients who faced the likelihood of dying within a year. All patients had been taking statins for at least three months; roughly half were randomized to continue taking the drug, the other half to discontinuing it.

The researchers followed the patients for up to a year to monitor survival, cardiovascular events and changes in quality of life.

Among the 192 study patients who continued statins, the median survival was 190 days; the 192 participants who stopped taking the drugs had a median survival of 229 days.

Those who discontinued the drugs reported a better overall quality of life, particularly in their psychological wellbeing, and saved money: $716 per person over the course of the trial for name-brand drugs, and $629 for generics.

Using U.S. population estimates, the researchers reported that as much as $603 million a year could be saved if patients in the late stages of fatal illnesses were to cut out statins.

“This is a decision that needs to be discussed between patients and their doctors; it’s not something that should be done independently or in a one-size-fits-all manner,” Abernethy said. “But our study found that patients who discontinued statins reported improvements in quality of life. This runs counter to the idea that discontinuing a treatment would cause people to somehow feel as if they were getting less care or inadequate care.”

Abernethy is a leading advocate for extending palliative care -- extra support from care teams to relieve both pain and improve quality of life -- to patients facing life-limiting illnesses. She said findings from this study should force new discussions.

“These are conversations that need to be had,” she said. “This brings us to a new era of asking how to right-size care, and how to bring evidence to that issue. There is an important message here that taking things away isn’t always bad.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Duke Medicine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Duke Medicine. "Stopping statins may benefit terminally ill patients." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140530142416.htm>.
Duke Medicine. (2014, May 30). Stopping statins may benefit terminally ill patients. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140530142416.htm
Duke Medicine. "Stopping statins may benefit terminally ill patients." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140530142416.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Obamacare-related costs were said to be behind the profit plunge at Wellpoint and Humana, but Wellpoint sees the new exchanges boosting its earnings for the full year. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Xtreme Eating: Your Daily Caloric Intake All On One Plate

Xtreme Eating: Your Daily Caloric Intake All On One Plate

Newsy (July 30, 2014) The Center for Science in the Public Interest released its 2014 list of single meals with whopping calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins