How equitable are GP practice prescribing rates for statins?: an ecological study in four primary care trusts in North West England
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Background There is a growing body of literature highlighting inequities in GP practice prescribing rates for a number of drug therapies. The small amount of research on statin prescribing has either focussed on variations rather than equity per se, been based on populations other than GP practices or has used cost-based prescribing rates. Aim To explore the equity of GP practice prescribing rates for statins, using the theoretical framework of equity of treatment (also known as horizontal equity or comparative need). Methods The study involved a cross-sectional secondary analysis in four primary care trusts (PCTs 1–4) in the North West of England, including 132 GP practices. Prescribing rates and health care needs indicators (HCNIs) were developed for all GP practices. Results Scatter-plots revealed large differences between individual GP practices, both within and between PCTs, in terms of the relationship between statin prescribing and healthcare need. In addition, there were large differences between GP practices in terms of the relationship between actual and expected prescribing rates for statins. Multiple regression analyses explained almost 30% of the variation in prescribing rates in the combined dataset, 25% in PCT1, 31% in PCT3, 51% in PC4 and 58% in PCT2. There were positive associations with variables relating to CHD hospital diagnoses and procedures and negative associations with variables relating to ethnicity, material deprivation, the proportion of patients aged over 75 years and single-handed GP practices. Conclusion Overall, this study found inequitable relationships between actual and expected prescribing rates, and possible inequities in statin prescribing rates on the basis of ethnicity, deprivation, single-handed practices and the proportion of patients aged over 75 years.