Objective: To determine whether growth in the use of lipid-lowering drugs after publication of studies in the primary and secondary prevention of coronary heart disease is in the population in which benefit was established, particularly middle-aged men.
Methods: We performed a series of pharmacoepidemiologic surveys of community prescribing in Ireland over 4 years.
Results: Nationally, the use of lipid-lowering drugs (92% statins) increased approximately fourfold from 1994 to 1998. In the Eastern Health Board region, the number of monthly recipients increased from 447 in April 1994 to 3530 in March 1998. Although use increased steadily after publication of Scandinavian Simvastatin Survival Study (4S) and West of Scotland Coronary Prevention Study (WOSCOPS) in 1994 and 1995, respectively, this occurred to a greater extent in women. However, after the Cholesterol and Recurrent Events (CARE) study in 1996 and subsequent recommendations that targeted statin use, particularly in men from 35 to 69 years old, there was a relatively greater increase in that population but, at 2.3%, it was well short of the target population of 5.8%. More women than men older than 65 years are receiving statins. The 10-mg dosage (a fourth or half that used in studies) is the most frequently dispensed.
Conclusion: The use of statins, although rising rapidly, is below targets and was initially not directed at the population likely to benefit most or in the recommended dosage. Consequently, the benefits projected from clinical trials may not be seen in clinical practice.