‘Prescription bias’ may see female diabetics miss out on statins, study suggests

Women with Type 2 diabetes are less likely than men to be prescribed statins to prevent heart attacks and strokes, new research suggests.

The condition, which occurs when the body does not produce insulin properly, increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases in both sexes.

However a study, published in journal Circulation, suggests there may be “prescription bias” in treatment.

The research, funded by charity Diabetes UK, also found that men and women with the condition now experience a similar relative increase in their risk of cardiovascular disease.

Previously, a greater proportionate increase was seen in women, the authors said.

Researchers from the University of Manchester analysed data on 80,000 people newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in England between 2006 and 2013.

Among this group, 11.6% of women and 12.8% of men went on to develop cardiovascular disease, the study found.

This compared to 7.4% of women and 8.1% of men without diabetes.

Meanwhile, women with Type 2 diabetes were 26% less likely to be prescribed ACE inhibitors and 16% less likely to receive statins than men with the condition.

They also found that women who were already showing some symptoms of cardiovascular disease were 37% less likely to receive ACE inhibitors and 41% less likely to receive statins than men.

Dr Elizabeth Robertson, director of research at Diabetes UK, said: “These new results suggest that the outlook for women with Type 2 diabetes is better than previously thought, thanks to improved care.

“However, 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.”

The researchers believe the gender bias in prescriptions could be due to differences in the symptoms of cardiovascular disease between men and women, or in the attitudes of healthcare workers and patients.

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.”

– Press Association