Women are 10% less likely than men to be prescribed cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, which can lower the risk for heart attack and stroke and are among the most widely prescribed medications worldwide.
The finding, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, is based on analysis of data from 43 international studies involving 2,264,600 men and women, most in their early 50s to late 70s who either had or were at high risk for cardiovascular disease.
Overall, the researchers found that doctors treating women prescribe medications for cardiovascular disease — heart and blood vessel ailments that can lead to a heart attack or stroke — less often than doctors treating men.
In addition to the statin differences, the study found that women are 19% less likely to be prescribed aspirin to prevent blood clots and 15% less likely to get a prescription for a blood-pressure-lowering drug called an ACE inhibitor. But they are more likely than men (by 27%) to be prescribed a diuretic for blood pressure control.
Why the differences in prescription rates exist was not determined.
Internationally, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death, reports the World Health Organization. That holds true in the U.S., where someone dies every 37 seconds from cardiovascular disease, about 1 in 4 deaths, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cardiovascular disease often develops when cholesterol builds up on the walls of arteries, forming plaque that narrows the arteries, restricting the flow of blood and potentially leading to a heart attack or stroke.
Researchers found that doctors treating women prescribe medications for cardiovascular disease less often than for men.