Majority of people with dangerously high cholesterol not taking medication

A new Harvard study looked at 15 years of data on people with high cholesterol.

Overall, screening for high cholesterol happened more than 80 percent of the time in adults with either FH or severe dyslipidemia -- and high-dose statins were prescribed 30 percent of the time for FH and 37 percent of the time for severe dyslipidemia.But there seemed to be less than ideal follow-through: over the entire time of the study, only 52 percent of adults with FH and 38 percent of adults with severe dyslipidemia were actually taking the statin.

This is, however, more than in the past. For the year 2000, less than a third of people with severe dyslipidemia were taking their statins. But for the year 2014, that had grown to 48 percent.

The patients at highest risk for lack of screening are younger adults and those without enough health care coverage.

The study was limited in some ways. The information on screening, awareness of the cholesterol and treatments were self-reported by patients. The authors also did not have information about whether patients were choosing not to take the statins or whether doctors were prescribing them less.

This study also only addressed adults over the age of 20 who had been diagnosed with dyslipidemia. Lastly, the specific LDL cholesterol values were missing for more than half of the participants, meaning it's possible that some of them may have been misclassified as having severe dyslipidemia.

But, overall, the study did show a clear distinction: although screening may be improving, the majority of patients with very high cholesterol are not taking statin medication.