Objective To quantify how a period of intense media coverage of controversy over the risk:benefit balance of statins affected their use.
Design Interrupted time series analysis of prospectively collected electronic data from primary care.
Setting Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) in the United Kingdom.
Participants Patients newly eligible for or currently taking statins for primary and secondary cardiovascular disease prevention in each month in January 2011-March 2015.
Main outcome measures Adjusted odds ratios for starting/stopping taking statins after the media coverage (October 2013-March 2014).
Results There was no evidence that the period of high media coverage was associated with changes in statin initiation among patients with a high recorded risk score for cardiovascular disease (primary prevention) or a recent cardiovascular event (secondary prevention) (odds ratio 0.99 (95% confidence interval 0.87 to 1.13; P=0.92) and 1.04 (0.92 to 1.18; P=0.54), respectively), though there was a decrease in the overall proportion of patients with a recorded risk score. Patients already taking statins were more likely to stop taking them for both primary and secondary prevention after the high media coverage period (1.11 (1.05 to 1.18; P<0.001) and 1.12 (1.04 to 1.21; P=0.003), respectively). Stratified analyses showed that older patients and those with a longer continuous prescription were more likely to stop taking statins after the media coverage. In post hoc analyses, the increased rates of cessation were no longer observed after six months.
Conclusions A period of intense public discussion over the risks:benefit balance of statins, covered widely in the media, was followed by a transient rise in the proportion of people who stopped taking statins. This research highlights the potential for widely covered health stories in the lay media to impact on healthcare related behaviour.