At-Risk Consumers Interested In OTC Statin

Armen Hareyan's picture
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According to data released by the National Consumers League today, Americans with unhealthy cholesterol levels would be more likely to consider taking an over-the-counter (OTC) statin option than a prescription (Rx) product, but the likelihood to use an OTC had decreased since 2004.

The findings of the survey are being made public on the eve of a joint meeting of two Food and Drug Administration Advisory Committees. At that meeting, members of the public will weigh in on the possibility of making the current Rx cholesterol-lowering statin MEVACOR (lovastatin) available as an OTC drug. The survey was commissioned by NCL and conducted by Harris Interactive between October 25 and November 5, 2007. A total of 710 adult Americans at known moderate risk for high cholesterol participated.

"For the more than 100 million Americans who have high cholesterol, the challenge of keeping the bad number low and the good number high is a very real one," said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of NCL, the nation's oldest consumer advocacy group. "In this atmosphere of increasing availability of medications without prescriptions, the introduction of an OTC statin could expand the total number of people getting treated for high cholesterol. Are consumers interested in an OTC statin option? According to our survey, they are."

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, high cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. NCL commissioned the survey to explore whether the ease of an OTC cholesterol-lowering drug would be attractive to those with moderately high cholesterol.

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Findings: OTC perceived as more convenient, Rx perceived as more trustworthy

Overall, the majority of those surveyed (82 percent) responded that an OTC statin would be preferable to a prescription statin. For those respondents who say they are more likely to consider taking the OTC product than an Rx product, the OTC is more appealing largely because of convenience factors. OTC statins are viewed as safer, more natural, more suitable for someone who takes charge of his or her health, and less likely to cause side effects than Rx statins. Those who prefer the Rx option have a greater trust in the product and the fact that a doctor prescribed it. The Rx version is generally viewed by at-risk respondents as more effective, more reliable, more trustworthy, and more suitable for someone in poor health than is an OTC statin.

Those most inclined to use the OTC statin include individuals with greater levels of concern about cholesterol, those with higher known cholesterol levels, and those who take vitamins or supplements on a daily basis. The vast majority (98 percent) of those who reported being most concerned about their cholesterol indicated that the OTC product would be appropriate for someone with health care needs much like their own. And 94% of all respondents reported that the OTC product would be appropriate for someone who takes charge of his or her health.

The survey found that people want to know more about OTC statins, and in fact, are more than three times as likely to seek out additional information about the OTC statin than the Rx statin (79 percent vs. 21 percent). They were also much more likely to discuss the OTC product than the Rx product with their doctor (64 percent vs. 36 percent).

Although the survey revealed a strong preference for the OTC option, it found a decline since 2004 in respondents who said they were very or extremely likely to use an OTC statin, from 20% in 2004 to 11% in 2007. While all groups surveyed reported they preferred OTC over Rx, African Americans reported the lowest likelihood of using the OTC product compared with white and Hispanic respondents, and women were less likely than men to report that they are very or extremely likely to use the OTC product.

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