A recent study is shedding some light on the impact of gender and race on adherence to statins used to treat high cholesterol. While high cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke, the condition can be well managed with prescription medications when taken as prescribed.

The study, conducted by researchers at CVS Caremark and Brigham and Women’s Hospital and published in the May issue of The American Heart Journal, found that non-white patients had 50 percent greater odds of being non-adherent to statin medication than white patients, while women had 10 percent greater odds of being non-adherent than men.

According to the experts, there are a number of potential reasons for non-adherence among women and non-white patients. For example, active prevention of cardiovascular disease may not be a priority for women and their health care providers because of the common misconception that women are less at risk than men. In addition, women also frequently serve as informal caregivers for family members and may be further impacted by the fact that caregivers frequently have lower rates of medication adherence.

The reasons that non-white patients may be non-adherent are more complex. Research shows that non-white patients are less likely to have a consistent relationship with a primary care provider than white patients which can impact chronic care and adherence. Additionally, both women and racial and ethnic minorities may be more likely to experience side effects from statins, a commonly cited reason for early discontinuation or poor adherence.

The results of this study will help the health care industry improve outreach to patients who may be at higher risks of non-adherence and develop programs to help these patients improve their medication adherence.

Read the complete press release here.