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Women missing out on life-saving statins in prescribing gender bias

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 6 days ago Sarah Knapton

© rogerashford A worrying gender divide in the prescribing of life-saving statins to women with Type 2 diabetes has been uncovered by researchers.

An analysis of prescriptions shows that although women are more likely to have high blood pressure and cholesterol than men - putting them at greater risk of heart problems - they were less likely to receive protective medication.

Researchers from the University of Manchester believe that healthcare workers fail to realise that risk of cardiovascular disease for diabetic women is not that much lower than that of men.

A study of 80,000 people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in England between 2006 and 2013 found that 11.6 per cent of women and 12.8 per cent of men went on to develop cardiovascular disease.

Yet women were 16 per cent less likely to receive cholesterol-lowering statins than men, and 26 per cent liss likely to be prescribed ACE inhibitors, which helps relax blood vessels and lowers blood pressure.

Dr Elizabeth Robertson, director of research at Diabetes UK, said: “We need to make sure that everyone with Type 2 diabetes gets the best treatments and care, to reduce their risk of life-threatening cardiovascular complications like heart attack or stroke as much as possible."

Researchers are worried that women are often not given statins or ACE inhibitors because they are less likely to present with chest pains if they have cardiovascular disease. Women are more likely to suffer nausea instead, which healthcare workers often do not automatically take to be a heart issue.

The new figures show that there are now almost 4.2 million people in Britain are living with Type 2 diabetes, just under half of whom are women.

Type 2 accounts for 90 per cent of all diabetes cases and diagnoses have doubled in the past 20 years, largely because of Britain’s growing obesity crisis. Currently the NHS spends £10 billion tackling the issue, 10 per cent of the entire healthcare budget.

© Justin Paget Photography Ltd Each year, diabetes causes 27,000 heart attacks, 35,600 strokes and 100,000 cases of heart failure, with people with Type 2 diabetes more than twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke than someone without the condition.  

Although the new research found that the risk of women with Type 2 diabetes developing cardiovascular disease has fallen, largely because of lifestyle interventions but many women are still not getting life saving drugs.

This was despite the fact that women are more likely to have high blood pressure and cholesterol levels than men, and have more regular contact with a healthcare team.

© rogerashford Dr Alison Wright, lead researcher of the study at the University of Manchester, said: “The improved outlook for women as they develop Type 2 diabetes is good news, and likely to be a reflection of the improvements in Type 2 diabetes UK care.

“But we can’t be complacent; as healthcare professionals, we need to ensure that women receive better care, on a par with men, to address any potential prescription bias.”

Dr Martin Rutter, senior researcher at the University of Manchester, said: “Further research is now needed to understand the reasons for these prescribing differences between men and women and to find ways to close the gap.

“Research in primary care is particularly needed, as this is where most people with Type 2 diabetes are treated.”

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