Mass media and GP statin prescribing.

Verheij, R.A., Kleijer, S.J., Dijk, L. van, Schellevis, F.G. Mass media and GP statin prescribing. European Journal of Public Health: 2009, 19(suppl. 1), p. 32. 17th European Public Health Conference 'Human Ecology and Public Health', 25–28 November 2009, Lodz (Polen).
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In March 2007, a Dutch consumer affairs television programme (Radar) questioned the effectiveness of statins in reducing mortality and cardiovascular incidents. We investigated the effects of this television broadcasting on statin prescriptions by GPs in people with and without cardiovascular (co)morbidity and/or diabetes.

Data (2005–07) was used from electronic medical records, collected in a representative sample of 60 general practices in the Netherlands (210 000 registered patients, including 15 000 statin users). Logistic regression and chi-square tests were used to investigate the likelihood of starting and quitting statin prescriptions after the television programme, in comparison with the same period one-year earlier. A distinction was made between patients with and without cadiovascular comorbidity and/or diabetes, on the basis of previous GP consultations.

The likelihood of quitting statins was about twice as high after the television programme. However, the effect appeared to be limited to patients without cardiovascular disease/diabetes (as known from previous GP consultations). Furthermore, the incidence of dyslipidemia presented in general practice decreased considerably and the number of newly diagnosed cases of dyslipidemia in which a statin was not prescribed, was twice as high after the television programme.

This study shows a considerable effect of the television programme on general practitioner’s prescriptions. More patients quitted statins, but the effect was restricted to patients without cardiovascular comorbidity and/or diabetes. Furthermore, after the television broadcasting fewer people consulted their doctor for dyslipidaemia, and once they did, the chance of getting a statin prescribed was considerably lower. These results illustrate the power of mass media in drug utilization.