Stopping Statins May Benefit End-of-Life Patients

March 25, 2015
Meghan Ross, Associate Editor

Patients with limited life expectancy may see improvement in their quality of life if they stop taking statins.

Patients with limited life expectancy may see improvement in their quality of life (QOL) if they stop taking statins.

The new study results published in JAMA also suggest that such patients could benefit from reductions in medication costs and pill burden related to statin therapy.

The study followed patients who had an estimated life expectancy between 1 month and 1 year. They also had been taking statin therapy for ≥3 months for primary or secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, but had no active cardiovascular disease.

Patients either discontinued statin use or continued statin therapy and were monitored on a monthly basis for up to 1 year. The researchers considered outcomes such as death within 60 days, survival, cardiovascular events, performance status, QOL, number of non-statin medications, and cost savings.

Of the 381 patients, 189 were randomly assigned to stop taking statins. About 48% of the total group had cancer, and 22% had cognitive impairments.

According to the study authors, the proportion of patients in both groups who died within 60 days was not significantly different. However, QOL was deemed better on average in the group that did not continue statin use; the discontinuation group’s average QOL score was 7.11 versus 6.85 among the statin-takers. Patients saw an average of $716 in savings as a result of statin cessation, as well.

Few patients experienced cardiovascular events; there were 13 among those who discontinued statins and 11 among those who continued them.

The study authors pointed out that statin benefits can take years to accrue, which may lead some patients with life-limiting illness and their health care professionals to consider stopping statin use.

Thoughtful patient-provider discussions regarding the uncertain benefit and potential decrement in QOL associated with statin continuation in this setting are warranted,” the study authors concluded.