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BACKGROUND: Statins are highly effective in reducing the risk of sudden cardiac death and other acute coronary events in patients with pre-existing ischaemic heart disease or with raised blood cholesterol levels. However, relatively little is known about how statins are used in primary care. The objectives of this study were to investigate age, sex and inter-practice variations in the prescribing of statins. METHODS: This was an observational study of statin prescribing rates in 288 general practices in England and Wales that contributed data to the General Practice Research Database in 1996. RESULTS: In 1996, 0.7 per cent of men and 0.5 per cent of women received a prescription for a statin. In the subgroup of patients with a general practitioner (GP) diagnosis of ischaemic heart disease, 13.3 per cent of men and 8.2 per cent of women received a prescription for a statin in 1996. Below the age of 65 years, men with ischaemic heart disease were more likely to be prescribed a statin than were women. Patients aged 75 years and over with ischaemic heart disease were unlikely to be prescribed a statin irrespective of their sex. The percentage of patients prescribed statins in individual practices varied from 0.1 to 2.3 per cent in men and from 0 to 2.3 per cent in women. The recorded prevalence of ischaemic heart disease explained only 12 per cent of this variation in men and 7 per cent in women. CONCLUSIONS: There are large age, sex and inter-practice variations in the use of statins in primary care, which are poorly explained by measures of health need. Developing and implementing clinical guidelines to accompany the introduction of new drugs for the management of common chronic disorders should be seen as a priority for GPs, primary care groups and the National Institute of Clinical Excellence.

Original publication




Journal article


J Public Health Med

Publication Date





275 - 279


Adult, Age Factors, Aged, Anticholesteremic Agents, Drug Utilization, England, Family Practice, Female, Humans, Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors, Lovastatin, Male, Middle Aged, Myocardial Ischemia, Practice Patterns, Physicians', Prevalence, Sex Factors, Wales