A new study has shown that only 68 percent of corporate executives in the US took their cholesterol lowering medication as prescribed by a doctor.
Overall, the executives who took their medication even sporadically were twice as likely to meet their cholesterol goals.
The study finding also questions the prevailing wisdom that income is a primary factor in medication adherence.
University of Michigan researchers studied 1,607 executive level managers at a major financial institution from 1995 to 2004, said Alyssa Schultz, health science research associate at the U-M School of Kinesiology Health Management Research Center, and one of the study authors.
Researchers wanted to discover the rate of medication adherence, and also what happened to cholesterol levels in executives who did or didn't take statins.
Statin drugs lower the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or the so-called bad cholesterol. Statins are proven effective and are a first-line treatment for lowering cholesterol.
Adherence was defined as taking medication as prescribed at least 80 percent of the time.
Overall, statin users were twice as likely to meet the near optimal goal of 130 mg/dL or less, than non-statin users.
Among executive who took statins, 70 percent achieved the near-optimal goal and 30 percent achieved the optimal goal of 100 mg/dL or less, compared to 55 percent and 21 percent, espectively, for non-statin users who weren't prescribed the drug
According to Schultz, even executives who took their medication sporadically did much better than the non-statin users.
"It seems to show that some medication use is better than none, however adherence is associated with the best outcome of all," she said.
The executives who actually did adhere to the statin regimen were significantly more likely to achieve their cholesterol goals than those who took the medication sporadically.
Researchers in this study did not look at reasons why the executives did or didn't follow their doctor's orders, but past research on the topic suggests cost is a factor.
However, this study population was predominately white male and more highly educated and compensated than more than the average person.
"Many people think cost is the main reason for medication non-adherence but this doesn't appear true since these people have relatively high salaries," Schultz added.