Suboptimal statin adherence and discontinuation in primary and secondary prevention populations

J Gen Intern Med. 2004 Jun;19(6):638-45. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1497.2004.30516.x.


Objectives: To compare statin nonadherence and discontinuation rates of primary and secondary prevention populations and to identify factors that may affect those suboptimal medication-taking behaviors.

Design: Retrospective cohort utilizing pharmacy claims and administrative databases.

Setting: A midwestern U.S. university-affiliated hospital and managed care organization (MCO).

Patients: Non-Medicaid MCO enrollees, 18 years old and older, who filled 2 or more statin prescriptions from January 1998 to November 2001; 2258 secondary and 2544 primary prevention patients were identified.

Measurements: Nonadherence was assessed by the percent of days without medication (gap) over days of active statin use, a measurement known as cumulative multiple refill-interval gap (CMG). Discontinuation was identified by cessation of statin refills prior to the end of available pharmacy claims data.

Results: On average, the primary and secondary groups went without medication 20.4% and 21.5% of the time, respectively (P=.149). Primary prevention patients were more likely to discontinue statin therapy relative to the secondary prevention cohort (relative risk [RR], 1.24; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.08 to 1.43). Several factors influenced nonadherence and discontinuation. Fifty percent of patients whose average monthly statin copayment was < US dollars 10 discontinued by the end of follow-up (3.9 years), whereas 50% of those who paid >US dollars 10 but <or=US dollars 20 and >US dollars 20 discontinued by 2.2 and 1.0 years, respectively (RR, 1.39 and 4.30 relative to <US dollars 10 copay, respectively).

Conclusions: Statin nonadherence and discontinuation was suboptimal and similar across prevention categories. Incremental efforts, including those that decrease out-of-pocket pharmaceutical expenditures, should focus on improving adherence in high-risk populations most likely to benefit from statin use.

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Coronary Disease / drug therapy*
  • Coronary Disease / prevention & control*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Databases as Topic
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Female
  • Financing, Personal
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / economics
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Managed Care Programs
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Primary Prevention*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Refusal* / statistics & numerical data
  • United States


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors