Study links DTC ads, statin overuse

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A study of prescription drug direct-to-consumer advertising suggests that it may promote over-diagnosis of high cholesterol and over-treatment for populations where risks of statin use may outweigh potential benefits.

Published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, the study of over 106,000 adult television viewers between 2001 and 2007 estimates exposure to statin ads raised the odds of being diagnosed with high cholesterol by 16% to 20%, and increased statin use by 16% to 22%.

Statin drugs are recommended for secondary prevention of coronary heart disease (CHD), but there is no consensus on their role in lifestyle change efforts for primary prevention, say the authors from Cornell and NYU.

“Research suggests that exposure to DTC advertising increases drug demand among those at comparatively low risk,” the abstract adds. “Research has yet to examine whether individual-level DTCA exposure may influence statin use among men and women at high, moderate, or low risk for future cardiac events.”
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