May 2011


Long term persistence with statin therapy

Experience in Australia 2006–2010

Volume 40, No.5, May 2011 Pages 319-322

Leon A Simons

Michael Ortiz

Gordon Calcino


Long term persistence on statin drugs has been shown to be unsatisfactory, however, there is little recent Australian data. This study examines current persistence Australia-wide in patients who have been newly prescribed a statin drug.


We conducted a longitudinal assessment of Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme claim records dating from April 2005 to March 2010. Main outcome measures were the proportion of patients who were not filling a first repeat prescription at 1 month, and median persistence time during follow up.


For 77 867 patients initiated to statin, 86% of prescriptions came from general practitioners. Forty-three percent of patients discontinued statin within 6 months, 23% failed to collect their first repeat at 1 month, and median persistence time was only 11 months. In those aged 65–74 years, median persistence time was 19 months but only 3–6 months for those less than 55 years.


Unsatisfactory long term persistence on statin therapy has changed little over the past 10 years. There may be an opportunity for early intervention within 3–4 weeks of initiation to improve persistence, as valuable resources are being wasted and an opportunity for disease prevention missed.

Therapy with hydroxymethylglutarylCoA (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitor drugs, better known as ‘statins’, has become an essential part of cardiovascular disease prevention and therapy.1,2 Yet it is recognised that statin treatment, in conjunction with therapy of other chronic asymptomatic conditions, is associated with unsatisfactory long term persistence.3 In 1996,we reported that 40% of Sydney (New South Wales) residents who had been newly prescribed lipid lowering drugs had discontinued this therapy within 6 months.4 In 1999, we accessed Australia-wide Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) claim records and reported that 30% of patients newly prescribed lipid lowering drugs, mainly statins, had discontinued therapy within 6 months.5 More recently we reported that 35% of Australian patients newly prescribed antihypertensive drugs had also discontinued therapy within 6 months.6

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