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Feb 06, 2015

Survey: 1 in 3 Americans Prefers Shorter Life to Daily Pill

Researchers explore the uptake of a preventive heart disease medicine.

Many adults are so opposed to taking a daily pill that they would shave years off their lives to avoid it, according to a study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

For this study, researchers from the University of California San Francisco and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults about their preferences regarding medication use. The goal was to measure just how willing the average person is to take daily pills to prevent serious health conditions like heart disease—the No. 1 killer of Americans.

There are plenty of medications available—like cholesterol and blood pressure-lowering drugs—that can help individuals at risk for heart disease significantly reduce their cardiovascular risk. In recent years, experts have contemplated a single daily pill that the average person could take to reduce their risk of heart disease. The question remains: Are Americans willing to take these preventive pills, especially when they’re otherwise healthy?

In March 2014, a total of 1,000 middle-aged U.S. adults completed the study’s online survey, which included questions on how much money they would be willing to spend on a preventive pill and the lifespan they would be willing to spare in lieu of daily medication. After analysis, researchers found that 1 in 3 Americans would shorten their lives just to avoid daily medication. Around 21% of adults would give up between one week and a year of their lives, while another 8% were willing to trade two years of life. Furthermore, respondents were willing to pay an average of about $1,445 to avoid taking one daily pill for the rest of their lives.

The good news is that the majority of Americans—represented by roughly 70% of the participants in this study—would not be willing to risk a shorter life to avoid taking a daily pill. In a world where medication can prove extremely useful in reducing health risks, findings are promising. However, the fact that many Americans are so opposed to taking daily medication raises concerns for the usefulness of preventive medication in the real world. If we create a “magic pill” that can cure heart disease, it’s of little value if few Americans are willing to take it on a daily basis.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Am I at risk for heart disease?
  • To estimate a patient’s risk for heart disease, doctors take into account a number of factors such as age, gender, blood pressure, cholesterol, and family history. Using this information, doctors can estimate whether a patient is considered to be at low, medium or high risk for heart disease. Online tools are also available to help patients estimate their risk for heart disease.
  • What is a cardiovascular risk estimate?
  • To identify patients at increased risk for heart disease, doctors use tools to estimate a person’s short and long-term risk of heart disease. These tools take into account factors closely related to cardiovascular risk, such as age, sex, cholesterol and smoking status, to estimate risk of developing heart disease in a given time period. Most estimates calculate short-term risk (risk of developing heart disease in the next 10 years) or long-term risk (risk of developing heart disease in an entire lifetime).

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