-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, March 8 (HealthDay News) -- Television ads for
cholesterol-lowering statin drugs may lead to overdiagnosis of high
cholesterol and overtreatment with the drugs, according to a new
The research found that patients' visits with doctors to ask
about statins advertised on TV often lead to prescriptions for the
The ads tell viewers about the health risks of high cholesterol
and encourage them to seek medical advice, tests and appropriate
treatment. The researchers wanted to assess the effect of this
The study was published online March 7 in the
Journal of General Internal Medicine.
It examined how often more than 106,000 American adults were
exposed to such ads between 2001 and 2007. Researchers also looked
at whether these adults reported being diagnosed with high
cholesterol, whether they had taken a statin in the previous year
and their risk factors for heart disease.
The study found that adults who had seen statin ads on TV were
16 percent to 20 percent more likely to be diagnosed with high
cholesterol, and 16 percent to 22 percent more likely to be using
statins, according to a journal news release.
However, the association between TV ads for statins and the
increased likelihood of being diagnosed with high cholesterol and
being prescribed statins was driven almost entirely by people at
low risk for heart disease. People at high risk for heart disease
who saw statin ads on TV were not more likely to be taking a
"Our findings raise questions about the extent to which direct-to-consumer advertising may promote overdiagnosis and overtreatment for populations where risks may outweigh potential benefits," wrote Dr. Jeff Niederdeppe, of Cornell University, and colleagues. "In addition, we found no evidence of favorable associations between exposure to statins in television advertisements and statin use among those at high risk for future cardiac events."
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States
and high levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol are a major contributor.
Statins have been proven to reduce LDL cholesterol.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about
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