CDC: Nearly 50% of Those Eligible for Cholesterol Drugs Do Not Take Them

While over 33% of American adults are eligible for treatment with cholesterol-lowering medications under current guidelines, nearly 50% of those adults are not taking them, according to a recent report from the CDC.

While data collected between 2007 and 2014 has shown a decline in the number of Americans with high cholesterol and an increase in the number of Americans taking cholesterol-lowering medications, a high level of LDL cholesterol remains a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

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To explore this issue, CDC researchers assessed data from the 2005-2012 National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys. Overall, 78.1 million adults (36.7%) were either eligible for cholesterol-lowering medications or were already taking one, but 35.5% of these adults reported neither taking these medications nor making lifestyle changes to improve their cholesterol levels.

Breaking down participants into subgroups, researchers found that:

  • 40.8% of men were eligible for cholesterol-lowering medication and of those, 52.9% were taking one.
  • 32.9% of women were eligible and of those, 58.6% were taking one.
  • 24.2% of Mexican-Americans were eligible and of those, 47.1% were taking one.
  • 39.5% of black Americans were eligible and of those, 46% were taking one.
  • 38.4% of white Americans were eligible and of those, 58% were taking one.

Note: While the study included all forms of cholesterol-lowering medications, 90% of participants were taking statins.

“Nearly 800,000 people die in the U.S. each year from cardiovascular diseases—that’s one in every three deaths—and high cholesterol continues to be a major risk factor,” researchers wrote. “This study reveals opportunities to reduce existing disparities through targeted patient education and cholesterol management programs.”

—Michael Potts

CDC. Half of those who need them not taking cholesterol-lowering medications [press release]. December 3, 2015.