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Study Finds Stopping Statins Benefits Patients with Advanced Illness

March 26, 2015

It’s a tough question—when treating patients with a limited life expectancy, is it ever appropriate to discontinue medications prescribed primarily for preventive health concerns, such as statins?

Findings from a study conducted by the NINR-supported Palliative Care Research Cooperative (PCRC) found that discontinuing statin use in patients with advanced illness is safe and may increase quality of life, decrease the use of nonstatin medications, and reduce costs. The research appears in the March 23rd issue of JAMA Internal Medicine.

The study was a multicenter clinical trial of 381 patients randomized to either discontinue statins or continue the therapy. The patients had no significant differences in mortality and those who stopped statin use reported improved quality of life. The authors say that their study should prompt providers to discuss the uncertain benefit and potential risks of continuing statin therapy for patients with life-liming illness and functional decline.

“It’s intriguing to look at treatment through a different lens – to ask providers to think about when stopping a medication is better than continuing its use. The idea supports the great need for health care providers to have meaningful discussions with patients about how to maximize quality of life, a key concept in palliative care settings,” said NINR Director Dr. Patricia A. Grady. “This study is an excellent example of the type of palliative care and end-of-life research studies the PCRC is facilitating. Research in this subject area is crucial to enhancing the lives of those with serious illnesses.”

Through a cooperative agreement with Duke University and the University of Colorado, NINR funds the PCRC, which provides a national research infrastructure to build the science of end-of-life and palliative care. There are currently over 60 PCRC Member Sites and Coordinating Centers throughout the United States.

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