Power of the Pill : Views about Cardiovascular Risk and the Risk-reducing Effect of Statins

Abstract: Medical treatments with statins are prescribed to patients with increased risk of cardiovascular events. The benefits from statin treatment are well documented in clinical trials, but long-term adherence in patients is low, indicating that patients have an uncertainty about the necessity and benefits of treatment. The aims of this thesis were to investigate how patients and doctors view different aspects of statin treatment. Further aims were to investigate if the cardiovascular risk level in patients affects their views about different aspects of statin treatment. Yet further aims were to compare health behaviours and views about risk factors in patients using statins to a non-treated population. Data was obtained from patients (n = 829), doctors (n = 330) and a population sample (n = 720) using postal questionnaires. Views about the effect of statin treatment were assessed in different ways for patients and doctors. Patients based their assessments on their own situation, and doctors’ treatment decisions and assessments of anticipated effect of treatment were based on two hypothetical patient cases. The results indicate that patients greatly overestimate the general effect of statins, compared to efficacy results reported from clinical trials. Patients’ previous coronary heart disease or high overall risk were factors not associated with their views and expectations of treatment effect. Statin users with an internally perceived health control and patients satisfied with their doctor’s treatment explanation reported higher beliefs in treatment necessity and benefits. Statin users reported having better health behaviours and generally rated risk factors as more important than the non-treated population. Doctors had suboptimal understanding of the number of patients expected to benefit following five years of statin treatment and had a varying understanding of statins’ ability to prolong life. Overall the results illustrate that patients and doctors have different perspectives and views of the benefits from statin treatment which puts emphasis on how statin treatment is discussed in the clinical setting.