Wealthy more likely to lower cholesterol with statins

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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New research shows that wealthy individuals are twice as likely to lower cholesterol levels with statin drugs compared to the poor. Statins (cholesterol lowering drugs) are expensive. Their use is now associated with social disparities for treatment of heart disease among the economically disadvantaged.

Virginia W. Chang, MD, PhD, of the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of Pennsylvania who conducted the research says, "High cholesterol was once known as a rich man's disease, because the wealthy had easier access to high fat foods (e.g., red meat). Now wealthy Americans are least likely to have high cholesterol, because they are more likely to be treated with statins, an expensive but highly effective pharmaceutical treatment to lower lipid levels."

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The findings show that treatment of heart disease has developed social boundaries. Scientists estimate that one third of declines in heart disease deaths are due to statin use and other drugs developed to treat cardiovascular disease.

The study authors write, “While the advantaged were previously more likely to have high levels of cholesterol, they are now less likely. We consider our case study against a broader theoretical framework outlining the relationship between technology innovation and health disparities. We find that the influence of technologies on socioeconomic disparities is subject to two important modifiers: (1) the nature of the technological change and (2) the extent of its diffusion and adoption”.

The economically disadvantaged are less likely to have access to expensive statin drugs, according to the new findings. The study is the first to look at the low income disparity in the treatment of heart disease from use of statins among the wealthy versus those who are poor.

JHSB

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