Statin prescribing in Australia: socioeconomic and sex differences

Nigel P Stocks, Heather McElroy, Philip Ryan and James Allan
Med J Aust 2004; 180 (5): 229-231.


Objective: To assess if there are any differences in statin prescribing across Australia by socioeconomic status or sex and to relate prescribing rates to coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality rates.

Design: Cross-sectional study using data on statin prescribing by age, sex and patient postcode for the period May to December 2002.

Setting and participants: The Australian population, stratified by sex and quintile of Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage (IRSD).

Main outcome measures: Age-standardised rates of statin scripts per 1000 population per month for each sex and IRSD quintile.

Results: 9.1 million prescriptions for statins were supplied between May and December 2002, for a total cost of $570 million. The age-standardised rates for statin prescribing in women varied from 56.9 (95% CI, 56.6–57.2) scripts per 1000 population per month in the most disadvantaged socioeconomic quintile through 53.4 (95% CI, 53.0–53.7), 50.3 (95% CI, 50.0–50.6), 48.4 (95% CI, 48.1–48.7) to 46.3  (95% CI, 46.0–46.6) in the least disadvantaged quintile. For men the figures were 52.6 (95% CI, 52.3–52.9), 50.9 (95% CI, 50.6–51.2), 48.8 (95% CI, 48.6–49.1), 47.7 (95% CI, 47.4–47.9), and 51.9 (95% CI, 51.6–52.2). There was a significant linear association between statin prescribing and CHD mortality by quintile of socioeconomic disadvantage in women (weighted least squares slope, 0.380; 95% CI, 0.366 to 0.395; P < 0.0001), but not in men (slope, − 0.002; 95% CI, − 0.010 to 0.006; P = 0.65).

Conclusions: Our results suggest that in men there is either overprescribing of statins in the highest socioeconomic quintile or underprescribing in the lowest. Furthermore, contrary to expectation, women — relative to men — are prescribed statins at higher rates at lower levels of risk (using CHD deaths as a proxy measure of risk).

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  • Nigel P Stocks1
  • Heather McElroy2
  • Philip Ryan3
  • James Allan4

  • 1 Department of General Practice, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA.
  • 2 Department of Public Health, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA.
  • 3 Hills Medical Service, Adelaide, SA.



This research was funded by a 2002 Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (Pfizer) Cardiovascular Research Grant. It was also supported by the Primary Health Care Research, Evaluation and Development (PHCRED) Program. We wish to thank Professor George Davey-Smith and Dr John Furler, who gave comments on early drafts, and Kristyn Wilson, who assisted with data analysis.

Competing interests:

None identified.

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