Direct to Consumer Statin Web Sites of Poor Quality

Internet sites are prevalent, but information on safe use and side effects flawed

THURSDAY, Feb. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Most Web sites advertising statins directly to consumers contain poor levels of information relevant to safe use of the medicine and side effects, according to a study published online Feb. 2 in Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety.

To assess a sample of Internet sites advertising statins for sale, Bethan Williams and David Brown, Ph.D., of the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom, simulated customer searches and evaluated 184 retrieved sites using tools focusing on quality (Q) and safe medicine use (SMU). The sites included: 40 each for atorvastatin, pravastatin, rosuvastatin, and simvastatin and 24 for fluvastatin.

The researchers found that the sites originated from 17 different countries. Most of the sites scored less than half the maximum Q score (26; range 5 to 17). For each of the statin groups, the mean total SMU scores were less than half of the maximum (45; range of 0 to 28), with no significant differences between the statins. In 92.4 percent of the sites, general contraindications were absent, and in 47.3 percent, contraindicated medicines were missing. Warnings regarding symptoms associated with myopathy, liver disease, hypersensitivity, and pancreatitis were absent in 37, 48.4, 91.3, and 96.2 percent of sites, respectively. Most of the Web sites presented an incomplete list of known side effects, with just 7.1 percent presenting a list in line with current prescribing information. Only 65.8 percent of the sites attempted to describe complications in lay language.

"A potential purchaser of statins is likely to encounter Web sites from a wide geographical base and of generally poor quality," the authors write.

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