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Researchers identify factors that may account for statin treatment gap between women and men

Statins are used to help prevent cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks, in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD). They are equally effective in women and men, but women are less likely to be prescribed statins. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts identified four factors that may be the major contributors to this health gap:

  • seeing a cardiologist
  • having a previous adverse reaction to a statin drug
  • older age
  • smoking history

The researchers followed 24,338 patients (15,332 men and 9.006 women) with CAD for at least one year. The women were less likely to be treated with statins:

  • 81.9 per cent of women had begun statin treatment, compared to 87.7 per cent of men
  • 67 per cent of women had persistent statin treatment, compared to 71.4 per cent of men

To explore these differences, the researchers first identified factors that were linked with statin use. After identifying these factors, they looked at the differences in these factors between men and women.

Factors that increased the likelihood of statin treatment included diabetes, family history of CAD, younger age, history of smoking and seeing a cardiologist. Adverse reactions to statins were linked to lower likelihood of ongoing statin treatment.

There was no difference in the rate of diabetes or family history of CAD between the men and women. However, there were significant differences between men and women for the other factors: the women were more likely to have reported adverse reactions, were less likely to be seen by a cardiologist, were less likely to smoke, and were older than the men.

The researchers calculated that these four factors may account for 90.4 per cent of discrepancy between men and women in persistent, ongoing statin use. For the discrepancy in starting statins, the  researchers calculated that three of these factors – differences in age, smoking history and seeing a cardiologist – may account for 48.9 per cent of the differences between men and women.

These results may help identify opportunities to improve CAD treatment for women.

The study, which was led by Dr. Alexander Turchin at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, was published in the journal PLOS ONE on May 5, 2016.

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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital