Background: Guidelines indicate eligibility for lipid lowering drugs, but it is not known to what extent GPs' follow guidelines in routine clinical practice or whether additional clinical factors systematically influence their prescribing decisions.
Methods: A retrospective cohort analysis was undertaken using electronic primary care records from 421 UK general practices. At baseline (May 2008) patients were aged 30 to 74 years, free from cardiovascular disease and not taking lipid lowering drugs. The outcome was prescription of a lipid lowering drug within the next two years. The proportions of eligible and ineligible patients prescribed lipid lowering drugs were reported and multivariable logistic regression models were used to investigate associations between age, sex, cardiovascular risk factors and prescribing.
Results: Of 365,718 patients with complete data, 13.8% (50,558) were prescribed lipid lowering drugs: 28.5% (21,101/74,137) of those eligible and 10.1% (29,457/291,581) of those ineligible. Only 41.7% (21,101/50,558) of those prescribed lipid lowering drugs were eligible. In multivariable analysis prescribing was most strongly associated with increasing age (OR for age ≥ 65 years 4.21; 95% CI 4.05-4.39); diabetes (OR 4.49; 95% CI 4.35-4.64); total cholesterol level ≥ 7 mmol/L (OR 2.20; 95% CI 2.12-2.29); and ≥ 4 blood pressure measurements in the past year (OR 4.24; 95% CI 4.06-4.42). The predictors were similar in eligible and ineligible patients.
Conclusions: Most lipid lowering drugs for primary prevention are prescribed to ineligible patients. There is underuse of lipid lowering drugs in eligible patients.