Surviving a stroke is often considered a triumph of modern medicine and human will, but it can leave those afflicted with debilitating side effects that can affect their quality of life. This often means that those who are fortunate to still be breathing after a stroke will likely be on a regimen of medication to prevent future strokes. Despite this, some stroke survivors are disregarding general practitioner’s (GP) advice on secondary prevention medication, such as statins for high cholesterol, with some patients stopping their medications altogether.
The researchers believe that a GP has the responsibility to make stroke patients aware of the treatments available to them and the potential need for medication changes. They go on to say that active follow-up is necessary when providing advice or changing treatments due to side effects. Approximately three in ten stroke survivors will go on to have a future stroke, which leads to an even greater disability or even death. Medications typically prescribed to these patients help control blood pressure (antihypertensive), thin the blood (anticoagulants), and decrease lipid levels (statin medications). A combination of these medications can help reduce the risk of stroke recurrence by up to 75 percent but tend to be abandoned over time by stroke patients due to side effects.
The study was conducted on an online stroke forum led by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). It is frequently used by patients who have experienced a stroke and their caretakers. By reading many of the discussion threads, researchers found that statin medications caused the most anxiety and resentment in patients, with their concerns not being fully met by their GP. This leads most patients to abandon their medication.
“Given the variety of cholesterol-lowering treatments and possible approaches to manage statin intolerant patients, I was surprised to see that patients seemingly lost hope after only one or two contacts with their GPs, unaware that a better regimen may have been available or that their GP would have been able to carry out another change in medication,” said lead researcher Dr. Anna De Simoni from QMUL, “In my practice, I am now advising patients that multiple treatment options are available, and several attempts may be required before a suitable treatment is found. It is also important to pro-actively invite them to seek help if side effects are experienced and don’t improve.”
It may be that patients felt the side effects from the medications were just something that they had to deal with. The researchers of the study say that simply advising patients to take certain medications may be the cause of the issue and that following up with patients (even by telephone) could ensure better treatment adherence.