health care

Research: Women, nonwhites more likely to avoid taking statins

BLOOMBERG FILE PHOTO/AARON M SPRECHER
THE RESEARCH is part of a multi-year collaboration between CVS Caremark and Brigham and Women’s Hospital to research pharmacy claims to better understand patient behavior.
Posted 5/14/13

WOONSOCKET – Nonwhite patients are 50 percent more likely to be nonadherent in taking statins to treat high cholesterol, according to new research published in the May issue of The American Heart Journal.

The research, conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and at CVS Caremark Corp., also found that women were 10 percent more likely to be nonadherent in taking statins compared to men.

The research is part of a multi-year collaboration between CVS Caremark and Brigham and Women’s Hospital to research pharmacy claims to better understand patient behavior. The study consisted of a literature review of more than 50 publications focused on gender and racial disparities associated with medication adherence and included more than 1.7 million patients.

Statins are often prescribed for treatment of high cholesterol, one of the major risk factors for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

“These findings help us better understand the impact of certain demographic factors on medication adherence,” said Dr. Niteesh Choudhry, associate physician, Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics, Brigham and Women's Hospital and associate professor, Harvard Medical School. “Since a large number of patients depend on medication therapy for primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, we believe that efforts to reduce non-adherence for statins can have a significant effect on addressing health care disparities, improving health outcomes and ultimately reducing costs.”

However, Dr. Barbara H. Roberts, director of the Women’s Cardiac Center at The Miriam Hospital, said that certain factors, such as side effects, may be involved with non-adherence by women. “Women are more likely to have side effects, so I suspect that plays a large role,” Roberts told The Providence Business News. “Women derive less benefit than men from statins as far as decreasing their risks, women are more likely than men to develop diabetes as a result of the use of statins, and women are more likely than men to develop muscle pain as a side effect.”

Roberts is author of a book called “The Truth about Statins,” which questioned the clinical value of prescribing statins for women.

Christine Cramer, spokesman from CVS Caremark, said that “researchers in the study did note that side effects related to prescribed statins could contribute to non-adherence” by women, and ethnic and racial minorities.

“This research helps those of us in the health care field better understand how to improve our outreach to patients who may be at a higher risk of non-adherence and develop programs to help these patients improve their medication adherence,” said Dr. Troy Brennan, executive vice president and chief medical officer of CVS Caremark.

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