NPS Media Releases – 1. Statins: See Your Doctor if You Stopped use. 2. Chronic Cancer Pain

15 JUNE 2015

NPS MedicineWise is today urging anyone who has stopped taking the cholesterol-lowing medicines known as statins without medical advice to make an appointment with their doctor to discuss their medicine choices.

A University of Sydney study published in the Medical Journal of Australia today estimates that 60,000 fewer people were taking statins in the eight months after a program on the topic aired on television in October 2013.

NPS MedicineWise CEO Dr Lynn Weekes says that even though some time has now elapsed since the Catalyst program aired, it’s important for anyone who stopped taking their prescribed statins without a discussion with their doctor to go back and have a conversation to weigh up the risks and benefits of the medicine for them.

“All medicines have their own risks, benefits and side effects, but we also know it’s very clear that people at high risk of a heart attack or stroke benefit substantially from statins in terms of reducing that risk,” says Dr Weekes.

“This is particularly the case for most people who have had already experienced a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or non-haemorrhagic stroke.

“It is worrying to learn that our fears have been realised and that such a large number of people have stopped taking their prescribed statins, seemingly in response to a television program that was found by the ABC’s independent Audience and Consumer Affairs Unit  to have not presented the evidence in a balanced way.

“Someone prescribed a statin is likely to be at higher risk of stroke or heart attack.  For these medicines to reduce that risk they need to be taken every day and for the long term.

“Rather than choosing to stop taking a prescribed medicine such as a statin without professional input, NPS MedicineWise is absolutely urging people to seek qualified medical advice to discuss their concerns and learn how such a decision might affect their health.”

NPS MedicineWise has reviewed the clinical evidence on statins and published a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) on its website addressing people’s key concerns.

The questions and answers include how a statin medicine can help and who should be prescribed them, the side effects statins can cause and what the evidence is behind their use. The document explains that recently published independent reviews of the evidence confirm that statins reduce the chance of heart attack or stroke for people at high risk, whether or not they have had a cardiovascular event before, and regardless of whether their blood cholesterol level is high or normal.

The FAQs also place in perspective concerns about possible statin side effects such as muscle pain or weakness, memory loss, and the risk of diabetes.

“NPS MedicineWise is urging anyone with concerns to read our information, and then talk to their doctor to make a shared decision about whether statins are right for them,” says Dr Weekes.

“It’s understandable that people are concerned when doubts are raised about the evidence behind a particular type of medicine, but in the case of statins the evidence is clear.”

To read the frequently asked questions on statins, visit

For more information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (herbal, ‘natural’, vitamins and minerals) from a health professional, call NPS Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) for the cost of a local call (calls from mobiles may cost more). Hours of operation are Monday–Friday 9am–5pm AEST (excluding public holidays).

11 JUNE 2015

Around one in five Australians experience chronic pain—a complex medical issue with varied causes, pathology and presentation. Many people with chronic pain also report their pain interferes with daily activities.

To encourage a multimodal approach to chronic pain treatment, NPS MedicineWise is releasing a suite of learning products as part of its Chronic Pain educational visiting program. Information contained within these products includes the importance of the role of non-pharmacological and non-opioid treatment options as well as the benefits of agreed management plans.

Dr Jeannie Yoo, NPS MedicineWise Clinical Adviser says, “Managing chronic pain is challenging for both health professionals and their patients. Current evidence supports using a combination of different treatment modes to allow a more individualised approach. The program recommends broadening the treatment focus from reducing pain alone to include achieving adequate functional improvement.

“Open communication with patients is key. Collaborative approaches for managing pain can lead to improved outcomes and adherence through the use of tools like management plans.

For many people, non-pharmacological therapies reduce pain to a level that is easier to control. Non-pharmacological modalities include advice on active self-management strategies with input as appropriate from a physiotherapist, occupational therapist, psychologist, and/or social worker.

The number of prescriptions for opioids is rising in Australia despite insufficient evidence to support their long-term efficacy. During the last decade there has been a 15-fold increase in opioids dispensed. Over the course of a year, 20% of Australians over 45 years of age will be prescribed at least one opioid for either acute or chronic pain.

“The insufficient evidence for long-term use, and the issues of central sensitisation and tolerance which reduce the effectiveness of opioids over time, need to be taken into account when recommending these medicines,” says Dr Yoo.

The NPS MedicineWise learning program products are now available to assist doctors and other healthcare providers consolidate knowledge on chronic pain management, current guidelines and practices, and earn continuing professional development (CPD) points. Resources and tools for the program includes:

 Educational visits on chronic pain (one-on-one or small groups)

*  Detailed online information about chronic pain

*  Health professional publication Medicinewise News—Chronic pain

 Clinical e-Audit

*  A new online case study: Chronic pain: opioids and beyond

*  My Pain Diary (a booklet for patients to record changes in their activity level and pain to assist their pain management)

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