Despite having life‐limiting illnesses, more than one-third of eldercare facility residents aged 65 and older remain on statins – with some on high-intensity doses, finds a new national study.

The need for these cholesterol-lowering medications in this frail group is debatable, although recent national guidelines have expanded indications for statins, wrote Deborah Mack, MPH, from the University of Massachusetts, and colleagues.

The researchers followed more than 420,000 Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries with life-limiting illnesses. Among residents expected to live less than six months, 23% ages 65 to 75 and 12% of people older than age 75 were on statins, the researchers found. The medication’s use was more likely among racial and ethnic minorities, people prescribed more than five concurrent medications, and those who had atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease or risk factors.

In addition, the more non-statin medications a resident was prescribed, the more likely they were to be on statins. Up to 20% were on 11 or more medications. This finding suggests an opportunity for improved medication stewardship, the authors wrote.

“Given the extensive use of statins in those 65 to 75 years of age and those older than 75 years, major U.S. medical societies and organizations should clarify guidelines for older frail populations with limited life expectancies,” they concluded.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.