Nov. 20 (UPI) -- Use of statin cholesterol-lowering drugs in people with a history of heart problems in the United States has increased by roughly 20% over the past decade, a study published Friday by JAMA Network Open found.
However, statin use and treatment adherence was significantly higher among adults diagnosed with heart disease, at 81%, than those that had ischemic stroke and transient ischemic attack, or TIA, at 66%, or peripheral artery disease, or PAD, at 38%, the data showed.
Doctors recommend statins to many people with these conditions to control cholesterol to reduce the risk for future heart-related problems.
Although "there have been modest improvements in statin use and cardiovascular outcomes among patients with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease over the past decade, many patients with PAD, ischemic stroke and TIA ... remain under-treated," study co-author Xiaoxi Yao told UPI.
"Future efforts [must] be focused on educating clinicians and patients on the importance of statin therapy," said Yao, a health outcomes researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
Nearly 30 million adults in the United States have high cholesterol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Up to 40 million people nationally have been prescribed statin drugs, including Lipitor, Crestor and Zocor and generic versions -- to help reduce cholesterol, research indicates.
For this study, Yao and her colleagues assessed statin use in nearly 285,000 adults ages 54 to 72 who had a heart attack or stroke between 2007 and 2016.
Among these patients, statins us increased to 60% in 2016 from 50% in 2007. The use of or high-dose statins within this group rose to 49% from 25% over the same period, the researchers said.
Increased adherence to prescribed treatment was driven at least in part by reduced costs for the drugs, the researchers said.
From 2007 to 2016, out-of-pocket costs for a 30-day supply of statin drugs fell by 90%, from about $20 to $2, due to increased use of generic brands of the medication, the researchers said.
However, despite the cost reduction, up to 30% of users across all conditions did not comply with prescribed treatment, Yao said.
"Despite the significant reduction of cost over the past decade, many patients still failed to adhere to statins, [so] there might [still] be non-financial barriers to their use," she said.