High cholesterol is costing Australians big, with a new Heart Foundation report highlighting the health and financial impact the medical condition is having on Australians.
More than one in three Australian adults, or 7.1 million people around the country, are living with high cholesterol, according to the new Economic Burden of Hypercholesterolaemia report. Between 2017 and 2018, Australians spent close to $100 million on out-of-pocket costs for cholesterol lowering medications.
The out-of-pocket costs of the statins – a medication used to lower cholesterol – is based on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme’s 2016/17 report. It analysed lipid lowering agents through a grouping of all lipid lowering medications listed with the PBS.
From the grouping, the individual high cholesterol drug names included atorvastatin, rosuvastatin and simvastatin, but this doesn’t necessarily reflect the brand names of the medication people purchase from chemists and pharmacies. The cost of the statins ranges from $18.13 per script to $39.50 per script.
The study also found that high cholesterol placed around a $4 billion burden on the Australian economy between 2017-18. Most of the cost was the result of heart disease and ischaemic stroke, for which high cholesterol is a major risk factor.
In Australia, more than half of the $7.3 billion cost of heart disease and 12 per cent of the $1.3 billion cost of ischaemic stroke can be attributed to high cholesterol, according to the Heart Foundation.
“Despite these figures, the lack of symptoms associated with high cholesterol mean that most Australians with the condition are not receiving the recommended treatment,” Heart Foundation Group CEO John Kelly said in a statement. “This puts them at greater risk of heart attack and stroke, and developing life-threatening diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.”
Furthermore, thousands of heart attacks and strokes could be prevented if people aged between 45 and 74 visited their GP or health professional for a heart health check – particularly because there are often no visible symptoms when it comes to heart disease. A heart health check is simply part of a regular check up where a health professional takes blood tests, checks blood pressure and asks questions about family history and lifestyle.
Meanwhile, the number of heart attacks and strokes could also be reduced if high cholesterol was properly treated and managed. In light of the findings, the Heart Foundation has recommended establishing a national target for heart health checks, aiming to have at least 90 per cent of the eligible population assessed for cardiovascular disease within five years.