Harvard Health Letter

Health by the numbers

Statins and lower cholesterol ...

According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the percentage of Americans ages 45 and older taking a statin drug jumped from 2% in 1988–94 to 25% in 2005–08. There are roughly 117 million Americans over age 45, so that means there are almost 29 million statin users, or the equivalent of the entire populations of Florida and Georgia combined. Here is a graph from the NCHS that shows the increase:

graph showing percentages of Americans using statins

The fact that one in every four Americans older than the mid-40s is taking a statin is really kind of stunning (presuming, of course, that there hasn't been a big fall-off since 2005–08).

But it's not at all surprising that statin use has increased. The FDA approved the first statin, lovastatin (marketed as Mevacor), in 1987. Over the next decade, four others were approved. Backed by huge marketing budgets, statins became the top-selling drugs in the country, although lately, other drugs are supplanting them on the sales charts.

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