John A. Johnson, MD, MBA: Statins are medications that are used to lower cholesterol. They come with a lot of side effects; namely, the potential for causing damage, or injury, to the liver and muscle injury—so myopathy and rhabdomyolysis. A lot of these conditions can sometimes be painful and harmful. What we recommend, when a patient is started on a statin, is that they receive regular touchpoints with their clinician to ensure that their liver function tests are assessed, so that none of these negative events are occurring. Likewise, we want to ensure that our members are tolerating the medication and that it’s efficacious (meaning that it’s lowering the LDL [low-density lipoprotein] as the clinician would like it to).
Because these medications have a lot of side effects and safety concerns, sometimes the public tends to be a bit afraid of them. [However], the medications have been around for quite some time, and they’ve actually been proven to be very successful in lowering the LDL and lowering the risk of cardiovascular events, such as stroke. We definitely support, at WellCare, the use of statins, and we make these medications available on our preferred drug list.