Prescription cholesterol-lowering medication use in adults aged 40 and over: United States, 2003-2012

NCHS Data Brief. 2014 Dec;(177):1-8.


During 2003–2012, there was a significant increase in the percentage of adults aged 40 and over who used a prescription cholesterol-lowering medication. In 2003–2004, one in five adults reported using a prescription cholesterol-lowering medication in the past 30 days. By 2011–2012, that number had risen to one in four adults. In 2011–2012, the majority of adults using a cholesterol-lowering medication reported using a statin alone (83%). Ten percent used both a statin and a nonstatin and another 7% used only a nonstatin. Simvastatin was the most commonly used medication, with 42% of all cholesterol-lowering medication users reporting its use, followed by atorvastatin (20.2%). Use of a prescription cholesterol-lowering medication increased with age but was similar between men and women and race and Hispanic origin groups. Adults aged 40–64 who reported having health insurance or prescription medication coverage were more likely to take prescription cholesterol-lowering medications. Hypercholesterolemia or high cholesterol is one of the most common preventable risk factors for atherosclerotic CVD. In 2011–2012, more than 30 million Americans aged 20 and over (13%) had measured high total cholesterol (5). There is extensive and consistent evidence supporting the use of cholesterol-lowering medication, especially statins, in addition to lifestyle changes, to treat lipid disorders and reduce atherosclerotic CVD events. The 2013 cholesterol treatment guidelines updated recommendations for statin therapy on the basis of low-density lipid cholesterol levels and atherosclerotic CVD risks (6). Approximately 71% of adults with diagnosed CVD, 63% of those with diagnosed diabetes, and 54% of those with diagnosed hypercholesterolemia reported taking prescription cholesterol-lowering medications.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Utilization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Hypercholesterolemia / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Racial Groups
  • Sex Distribution
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States


  • Anticholesteremic Agents
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors