Discontinuing statins extends and improves life for terminally ill, study suggests

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Discontinuing cholesterol-busting drugs called statins would save money and potentially extend the lives of terminally ill patients, new research from Duke University School of Medicine suggests.

Duke researchers studied nearly 400 terminally ill patients who had been taking statins as prescribed for various health conditions. The median survival rate among the 192 patients whose statins were withdrawn was 229 days, compared to 190 days for another 192 patients who continued taking the medication.

In addition to having an overall better quality of life and improved psychological health, patients without statins saved as much as $716 per person over the course of the trial. Researchers extrapolated the data to conclude that patients in the late stages of illnesses could save more than $600 million a year by eliminating statins from their daily intake.

Even with the surprising findings, researchers acknowledged they point to a “thorny issue” of whether it is ever appropriate to discontinue non-life threatening medications for people with life-limiting diseases.

The research was conducted under the auspices of the Palliative Care Research Cooperative Group, a national research network focused on improving care for people with serious illnesses.

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