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Prescriptions Highlight Healthcare Inequalities

26 March 2009 Wiley

Statin prescription varies across geographic locations in Australia, according to a study in The Australian Journal of Rural Health by published Wiley-Blackwell.

This difference in statin prescribing not only demonstrates inequalities in healthcare due to geography, it also suggests that the accessibility of health services may a key factor determining its usage.

Statin is used globally to lower cholesterol levels, thereby reducing the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). In 2005, Australia spent 945 million, or approximately 16 per cent of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) budget on statins alone.

The study entitled "Gender, socioeconomic status, need or access? Differences in statin prescribing across urban, rural and remote Australia" used PBS data on statin prescribing to demonstrate that statin prescribing varies by geographic location, with rates decreasing as the population moves from the urban to rural and remote areas. This trend remains constant even with adjustments for age, gender and socioeconomic status.

Co-author Professor Nigel Stocks from the University of Adelaide said, "There has been well recognized shortage of general practitioners in rural and remote areas. If people are unable to get an appointment with their GP, they may not receive the optimal preventive care needed - the prescription of statins for the primary and secondary prevention of CHD might very well be reflective of this issue."

He adds, "More research should be done to confirm that access to health services affects statin use, both in Australia and overseas. We must determine how individuals and groups at high risk of CHD disease in the community can be provided with the appropriate medical services."

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