Many Stroke Patients Aren't Prescribed Statins

A recent study highlights significant disparities in the prescription of statin therapy for stroke victims upon their release from the hospital.

Doctors often fail to prescribe statins to stroke victims, according to a study published in the May issue of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers found that more than 16% of stroke patients leave the hospital without a prescription for the lifesaving medications, which are recommended by the American Heart Association as a preventive treatment following a stroke.

Prescribing statins prior to discharge is particularly important for stroke patients, who are at high risk for experiencing a second stroke within 1 week, according to lead author Bruce Ovbiagele, MD, MS, associate professor of neurology and director at the UCLA Stroke Prevention Program.

In the report, Dr. Ovbiagele called hospitalization for stroke a “window of opportunity,” in which health care providers can ensure patients are managing their condition appropriately. Starting treatment in the hospital also promotes drug adherence and improves clinical outcomes, he wrote.

The large study was conducted using data from 174,284 stroke patients who were admitted to hospitals that participated in the American Heart Association’s “Get With the Guidelines: Stroke” program between January 1, 2005 and December 31, 2007.

Statins were prescribed for 83.5% of patients included in the study, and statin prescription rates rose steadily over the 2-year period. 75.7% of patients were prescribed the drugs in 2005, compared with 84.8% in 2007. Patients who smoked and had a higher body mass index (BMI) were more likely to receive statins, indicating physicians were “tipped off” by these conspicuous cardiovascular risk factors.

Women were less likely to be discharged with statins than men, reflecting a growing disparity in both clinical outcomes and quality of care provided to women and men who receive treatment for stroke, according to the report.

Patients were least likely to receive statins if they were hospitalized in the South, where stroke is both more frequent and more severe, the researchers noted. “Our results emphasize the need to find better ways of bridging these sex and geographic disparities in stroke care,” they concluded.

For other articles in this issue, see:

  • Drug Makers Push for Pay Delay in Part D Discounts
  • Pharmacists More Effective Than CPOE for Error Prevention
  • Depressed Americans Favor Medication