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NLM-Funded Study Offers New Insight into Statin Discontinuation

Research funded by the National Library of Medicine provides new insight into why patients stop taking drugs that lower their cholesterol, and what happens when patients try those drugs, known as statins, a second time. Researchers found that more than 90% of patients who stopped taking statins because of an adverse reaction could tolerate the medication when tried again. The study is published in the April 2, 2013, issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

NLM grantee Alexander Turchin MD, MS, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, notes that statins are commonly stopped even though their benefits are well documented. He and colleagues wanted to better understand why statins are discontinued and whether adverse reactions play a role. They conducted a retrospective study, analyzing clinical data in an electronic medical record (EMR) system. Researchers examined structured data as well as the narrative electronic notes of health providers. Those notes frequently are the only place in an EMR where adverse reactions to medications are documented. Using the NLM grant, researchers developed natural language processing software and scoured more than 5 million notes, on more than 107,000 patients, recorded over nearly a decade. The software generated data on a scale that could not have been done manually. Researchers say the next step would be to conduct a clinical trial to determine if outcomes are improved when statins are tried again, after an adverse event.

The National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health, conducts and funds research in biomedical informatics, which involves applying computers and communications technology to the field of health. This research was supported by NLM’s Division of Extramural Programs grant RC1-LM010460. This was an NIH Challenge Grant, supported by NLM with funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. For additional information, visit the Brigham and Women’s Hospital News Release.

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