The Heart Foundation is asking Australians with high cholesterol not to refuse to take life-saving statin medication after a new international study found that 1 in 5 people refuse their prescribed statins.
The US-based study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed the medical data of millions of US citizens using artificial intelligence and natural language processing technology to find that 1 in 5 Americans refused to accept statin therapy despite being at high risk of developing heart disease.
The study also found that women were more likely than men to refuse to take statins when prescribed, and also less likely than men to achieve good cholesterol control within 12 months from diagnosis.
Statins lower the amount of bad cholesterol in the blood, preventing this fat from building up within and ultimately blocking a person’s coronary arteries.
The Heart Foundation said the study was the first of its type and more work would need to be done to understand what was causing the reluctance.
But the results are cause for enough concern to warn Australians to continue taking their statins, especially women for whom heart health outcomes were often worse than men.
Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death among Australian women.
High cholesterol impacts 6.5 million Australians – including 3.6 million Australian women - and is well recognised as a leading risk factor for heart attacks in Australia.
Statin therapy is the gold-standard, first-line, cholesterol lowering medication prescribed for high-risk individuals to help reduce their chances of having a heart attack or stroke.
If you are prescribed statins by your GP, it is because you are at high risk of a heart attack or stroke. It’s crucial that you consider taking these medicines, which are commonly regarded as having been critical to the reduction in cardiovascular death in Australia over the last 50 years.”
Natalie Raffoul, Healthcare Programs Manager, Heart Foundation.
Ms Raffoul said the study’s findings were in line with existing evidence that patient adherence to statin therapy was poor.
“This new study suggests that even before the point of being prescribed a medication, acceptance of statin therapy is poor too,” Ms Raffoul said.
“We have more work to do to understand what is causing this reluctance so that we can improve the uptake of statins among those who are prescribed them.”
Brown, C. J., et al. (2023). Assessment of Sex Disparities in Nonacceptance of Statin Therapy and Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Levels Among Patients at High Cardiovascular Risk. JAMA Network Open. doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.1047