Over Half of Eligible Patients Aren't Offered a Statin

Even if they meet guidelines established by experts

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Nearly 59 percent of American adults who meet American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology guidelines for statin therapy to lower cholesterol say their physicians hadn’t given them the option of taking a statin, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. People who were never offered a statin by their health care provider were more likely to be women, African American, and uninsured, according to the study authors.

Researchers at the Duke Clinical Research Institute in Durham, North Carolina, surveyed almost 6,000 adults from a national database. Of the 1,511 people surveyed who were not on statin therapy despite meeting the eligibility guidelines:

  • 59 percent said their doctor never offered the medication
  • 10 percent declined to take a statin as recommended by their doctor
  • About 31 percent had started and decided to stop statin therapy, possibly due to side effects

Health care providers use a 10-year risk calculator to determine which patients can benefit from statin therapy. The most common reason for declining statin therapy is a concern about potential side effects, which the study authors say is often higher than the actual risk and largely fueled by misinformation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that about a third of U.S. adults (more than 78 million people) are eligible for or already take a statin drug to lower their LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lessen their heart attack and stroke risk.