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More harm than good?

Blogs are not edited by PJ staff*. The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Pharmaceutical Journal.

*Blog pieces that have previously been printed in the PJ and Clinical Pharmacist are edited.

By Connie Pringle
1 Apr 2011


After much faffing around on the internet, I've finally managed to log in and get started on this exciting new blogging opportunity. It seemed appropriate to take my web log addiction to a new, pharmaceutical level.  When I'm not having an epic time running around trying to pass exams, fill in forms, complete placements and generally have a life, I'll write about pharmacy in the widest sense possible, hoping to start some discussion and fuel some debate. I hope you enjoy reading. First off some casual musings on the media evidence based medicine...


‘Are statins effective for the millions of people who take them?’ asked the BBC last week in response to recent research findings proposed by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The Daily Telegraph website claims that millions of patients are taking statins 'needlessly', with an apparently greater potential to experience more harm than good. Whilst talking to an older relative prescribed Simvastatin for primary prevention during the week, my opinion on the matter was asked.

A collection of evidence based medicine, lipid lowering drugs, research skills critical appraisal and patient counselling lectures sprung vaguely to mind. After the briefest of conversations with my housemate and fellow third year pharmacy student, I came to the earth shattering conclusion ‘it’s probably fine’. But when isn’t this sort of thing a somewhat grey area? If there’s such a thing as exact science I doubt we’ll find it when weighing up the risks/benefits of using statins for primary prevention.

After attending a workshop on cardiovascular risk assessment this week, I told my aforementioned relative to check out two equally crude cardiovascular risk calculators online. Have a look yourself (try or ), or play with the epic smiley face patient decision aid tools found here .

I can’t face delving into hard facts and numbers to investigate the matter further. However, I did scroll down the heated (by no means representative) barrage of online responses to the Telegraph’s slightly sensationalist take on things. It's clear that media attention of this nature has a direct implication for pharmacy practice. Patients have concerns, and generally want to know what’s going into their bodies and why. Patients need to be assured that healthcare professionals care about the outcome of drug therapy from every day patient perspectives.

We should be ready to address seriously all of the worries patients have about side effects and any long term risks that arise. The more we encourage patients to get involved in decisions about their care, the more they will care about their care. And, the less they will be on the daily telegraph website making those potentially libel jokes that the good folk at PJonline asked me not to include here...go on, have a look! 

As future pharmacists and healthcare professionals generally, we need to take some responsibility for helping patients and the public become better aware of medicine and healthcare issues relating to them, benefits, risks and all.