Persistence of use of lipid-lowering medications: a cross-national study

JAMA. 1998 May 13;279(18):1458-62. doi: 10.1001/jama.279.18.1458.


Context: Although clinical trials have demonstrated the benefits of lipid-lowering therapy, little is known about how these drugs are prescribed or used in the general population.

Objective: To estimate predictors of persistence with therapy for lipid-lowering drug regimens in typical populations of patients in the United States and Canada.

Design: A cohort study defining all prescriptions filled for lipid-lowering drugs during 1 year, as well as patients' demographic and clinical characteristics.

Setting: New Jersey's Medicaid and Pharmacy Assistance for the Aged and Disabled programs and Quebec's provincial medical care program.

Patients: All continuously enrolled patients older than 65 years who filled 1 or more prescriptions for lipid-lowering drugs (N = 5611 in the US programs, and N = 1676 drawn from a 10% sample in Quebec).

Main outcome measures: Proportion of days during the study year for which patients had filled prescriptions for lipid-lowering drugs; predictors of good vs poor persistence with therapy.

Results: In both populations, patients failed to fill prescriptions for lipid-lowering drugs for about 40% of the study year. Persistence rates with 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors were significantly higher than those seen with cholestyramine (64.3% vs 36.6% of days with drug available, respectively). Patients with hypertension, diabetes, or coronary artery disease had significantly higher rates of persistence with lipid-lowering regimens. In New Jersey, multivariable analysis indicated that the poorest patients (those enrolled in Medicaid) had lower rates of drug use than less indigent patients (those enrolled in Pharmacy Assistance for the Aged and Disabled) after adjusting for possible confounders, despite virtually complete drug coverage in both programs. When rates of use were measured in the US population for the 5 years following the study year, only 52% of surviving patients who were initially prescribed lipid-lowering drugs were still filling prescriptions for this drug class.

Conclusion: In all populations studied, patients who were prescribed lipid-lowering drug regimens remained without filled prescriptions for over a third of the study year on average. Rates of persistence varied substantially with choice of agent prescribed, comorbidity, and socioeconomic status, despite universal coverage of prescription drug costs. After 5 years, about half of the surviving original cohort in the United States had stopped using lipid-lowering therapy altogether.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Cholestyramine Resin / therapeutic use
  • Cohort Studies
  • Coronary Disease
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Hypertension
  • Hypolipidemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Patient Compliance
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Treatment Refusal / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Hypolipidemic Agents
  • Cholestyramine Resin