Racial Disparities in Statin Use


PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— Our bodies need cholesterol to produce cells, but high levels can cause plaque to build up in the arteries.  Medications, called statins, can lower the production of lipids, the so-called bad cholesterol. But a new study finds racial disparity in statin usage, which could hamper heart disease prevention.

Lipitor, Crestor, and Zocor. Just three of the handful of medications available with a prescription to lower cholesterol and help prevent heart disease. But is there a racial divide among patients at risk?

“Black individuals have a high risk of having heart attacks and strokes compared to white counterparts. But we’ve not really looked at in the real world is how are we doing in terms of giving them the medicines that they need,” Anum Saeed, MD, a cardiologist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, told Ivanhoe.

(Read Full Interview)

Until now. Dr. Saeed and her colleagues examined data from the medical records of more than 270,000  patients. The patients were evaluated based on their ten-year risk of having a cardiovascular problem. The researchers found that among patients with an intermediate risk of having a cardiac event, only 23 percent of the Black patients received statin therapy, as compared to 32 percent of the white patients. Among patients considered high risk, 40 percent of Black patients received statins, as compared to 44 percent of the white patients.

Dr. Saeed shared, “They had people who were not given the statin therapy based on their risk, had a lower intensity statin prescribed to them. They had increased events in terms of heart attacks and strokes.”

Dr. Saeed says the findings are a reminder for clinicians that statins are underprescribed by doctors for patients of all races who could benefit.

The researchers say more study is needed to understand and mitigate the barriers to equal access to statins.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #4955

BACKGROUND: Statins are drugs that can lower your cholesterol. They work by blocking a substance your body needs to make cholesterol. Lowering cholesterol isn’t the only benefit associated with statins. These medications have also been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. These drugs may help stabilize the plaques on blood vessel walls and reduce the risk of certain blood clots. Sometimes, a statin is combined with another heart medication. Whether you need to be on a statin depends on your cholesterol levels and other risk factors for heart and blood vessel diseases.

(Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/statins/art-20045772)

SIDE EFFECTS: Estimates are that in addition to the people already taking them, another 15 to 20 million people should be taking statin drugs based on their risk factors for heart disease. Your doctor can do a simple blood test to determine the amount of cholesterol in your blood. If you have high levels of bad cholesterol, you have a greater chance of heart disease, especially when there are other factors that increase your risk. Based on your overall risk, your doctor may recommend you take statins to help lower your cholesterol by a certain amount.

Most people who take statin drugs tolerate them very well. But some people have side effects. The most common statin side effects like dizziness, trouble sleeping or drowsiness. Less common side effects you may have with statins are skin problems such as rashes or acne or nausea.

(Source: https://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/side-effects-of-statin-drugs)

NEW RESEARCH: Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh studied the medical records for approximately 250,000 white patients and about 25,000 Black patients and found that, in both groups, in high-risk patients, the statin prescription was lower than optimal. “Approximately 40% of the high-risk white patients were given their guideline-directed statin therapy and 44 to 45% of Black individuals were given the guideline-directed statin therapy.  Now the big question is how did the intermediate risk do? The intermediate risk also was suboptimal in both groups but, again, the proportion of Black individuals being prescribed this medicine was slightly lower than the white individuals in our population,” said Anum Saeed, M.D.

(Source: Anum Saeed, MD, Cardiologist, Postdoctoral researcher and Clinical instructor, University of Pittsburgh)





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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Anum Saeed, MD, Cardiologist, Postdoctoral Researcher and Clinical instructor

Read the entire Q&A